How to Divorce Without Going to Court – 5 Ways
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Divorce can be costly and complex.
On top of hiring an attorney and preparing your case, you often must appear in court to provide testimony and present your point of view to the judge, who ultimately makes decisions regarding the division of property, child custody, and financial matters.
While this is perhaps the most common way of managing divorce, there are alternatives. There are options for divorce without court, which can simplify the process. Learn about these options below.
Alternatives to the traditional divorce process
Divorce without a court appearance is possible if you use alternative processes. With these processes, spending time arguing your case in court during a lengthy trial is unnecessary.
Instead, you can reach a mutual agreement with your spouse or use other methods that allow you to settle divorce out of court.
Ultimately, the divorce must be filed in court for it to be made legal and official, but the idea of a no-court divorce is that you do not need to make in-person appearances in front of a judge.
To have a divorce without a court appearance, you and your soon-to-be ex agree to the following without a judge making the decision:
- Division of property and debts
- Child custody
- Child support
In some instances, you can hire outside parties to help you resolve these issues, but the simplest way to have no court divorce is to come to a resolution on your own.
Is divorcing outside of court always an option?
Laws can vary from state to state, so in some cases, you may have to make a brief court appearance, even if you settle the divorce out of court. Typically, this will be a 15-minute appearance before a judge, during which they ask you questions about the agreement you’ve reached.
During a short court appearance, the judge will review and approve the settlement agreement you and your former spouse have created outside of court. Alternatively, you will still submit your final documentation to the court for review if you live in a state that doesn’t require a court appearance.
Consult with a local attorney or court if you have questions about whether your state allows you to file for divorce without a court appearance.
Of course, even if you choose to settle a divorce out of court, you still must file something in your local court. Without doing so, you would never receive a formal divorce decree.
What people mean when they discuss out-of-court divorce options is that there is no need to appear before a judge for a trial.
Related Reading: What All You Need to Know about Marital Settlement Agreement
How to get a divorce without going to court: 5 ways
If you’re looking for information on going through a divorce without court involvement, it’s helpful to know all your options. Below are five ways to get a divorce without going to court for trial.
Collaborative law divorce
If you want to learn how to divorce without a trial, you may benefit from hiring a collaborative law attorney who can work with you and your spouse to help you reach an agreement outside of court. In this type of divorce, your attorney specializes in settlement negotiations outside of court.
Collaborative law attorneys work with you and your spouse, and they may involve other specialists, such as mental health professionals and financial experts, to help you settle on the terms of your divorce without the assistance of a judge.
Once an agreement is reached, the divorce petition can be filed. If you cannot come to a resolution via a collaborative law divorce, you will have to hire litigation attorneys to represent you in divorce court.
Related Reading: What Is Collaborative Divorce & How Does It Work
In some cases, couples may be able to agree to their divorce without parties. In this case, you may be able to file a dissolution simply.
This is a petition that asks the court to formally end your marriage. Before filing your dissolution, you will talk with your spouse about the division of property and assets, property division, child custody, and child support arrangements.
Local courts often post dissolution paperwork, as well as instructions for filing a dissolution, on their website.
Some couples may prefer to have an attorney review dissolution paperwork before it is submitted to the court. If you do choose to hire an attorney, you and your spouse will need separate attorneys.
Some states may refer to the dissolution process as an uncontested divorce.
Related Reading: Dissolution Of Marriage: The Psychological Components
If you and your spouse cannot quite reach an agreement on your own, a trained mediator can work with the two of you to help you come to an agreement on your divorce terms.
Ideally, a mediator would be an attorney, but there are other professionals who may provide these services without being practicing attorneys.
Mediation is typically the fastest and least expensive way to come to an agreement on a divorce, and some couples may even be able to reach a resolution with just one mediation session.
You might think that mediation sounds an awful lot like collaborative divorce, but the difference with mediation as a no-court divorce option is that it only requires you and your spouse to hire one mediator.
In collaborative divorce, you and your spouse must each hire a collaborative law attorney.
Related Reading: What Is Divorce Mediation and How Is It Helpful?
Not all states offer this as an option, but if you’d like to get a divorce without court involvement, an arbitrator may be a suitable choice for you, if you and your spouse cannot settle your differences through mediation.
Where arbitration differs from other divorce methods without court appearance is that the arbitrator makes a final decision, rather than the couple agreeing.
With divorce arbitration, you can choose an arbitrator to work with. They will listen to the details of your situation and then make final and binding decisions. The advantage is that you can select your arbitrator, but unlike a judge, you cannot appeal any decisions.
Your arbitrator will issue a decision, just as a judge would during a trial, but the process is a little less formal than appearing in court.
Because of this, arbitration is becoming more common as a no court divorce option, especially as it pertains to resolving child custody disputes.
Related Reading: How to Select the Right Divorce Attorney: 6 Tips From a Lawyer
Learn more about divorce arbitration in this video:
Similar to filing a dissolution, you may be able to complete an “Internet divorce” which uses an online software program to help you through the no court divorce process.
You and your soon-to-be former spouse will sit down together, input information into the software, and receive an output of the paperwork you need to file in court.
This method is feasible for getting a divorce without court involvement, so long as you can come to an agreement on terms, like child custody and splitting of assets and debts.
Related Reading: Getting Divorce Papers Online: Benefits & Process Of Online Filing
So, do you have to go to court to get divorced? If you and your spouse are able to come to an agreement outside of court, either on your own or with the help of a mediator or collaborative attorney, you can reach a resolution without going to court for a trial before a judge.
In some states, you may be able to complete a true no court divorce, in which you simply file something in court and receive a divorce decree in the mail. Even if you do have to appear in court, if you’ve resolved your issues through mediation or another out-of-court method, your in-person appearance will be brief and will be for the sole purposes of the judge reviewing and approving the agreement you’ve reached.
Choosing to divorce without court can be a beneficial option, as it saves you time and money associated with going to court. Attorney fees are usually much less expensive if you’re able to come to an agreement, rather than having attorneys argue on your behalf before a judge.
In some instances, a no-court divorce may not be the best option. For instance, if there is hostility between you and your former spouse, or there has been violence within the marriage, it may be best to consult with an individual divorce litigation attorney.
If you are unsure of whether you and your spouse can get a divorce without going to court, you may consider trying couple’s counseling first. In these sessions, you may be able to process some of your conflicts and determine that you’ll be capable of working through your issues outside of court without an adversarial legal battle.
On the other hand, counseling sessions may reveal that you are simply unable to reach an agreement without a trial.
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