There are lots of different ways to get divorced, depending on how much money you want to spend. In almost every single case, an uncontested, no fault divorce is the fastest, easiest, cheapest way to get divorced. If you want to fight it out in court, you’re going to have to pay for it. It may not be fair, but that’s just the way it is. In divorce, settlement isn’t “settling”—it’s making a conscious decision to put aside your differences in favor of reaching an agreement that keeps the most money for the people who need (and deserve) it the most: you, and your husband.
In order to get an uncontested, no fault divorce, you and your husband will have to enter into a separation agreement. A separation agreement (sometimes referred to as a property settlement agreement, or a marital and separation agreement) is a legal contract in which the two of you divide up the rights, responsibilities, and liabilities resulting from the marriage. You’ll deal with everything from how to handle the marital residence, creating a custody arrangement for your children, dividing up credit card debt, and figuring out who gets what portion of the retirement account(s). It’s a pretty serious document, but you can create one in a number of different ways.
With a Lawyer
You can hire an attorney to draw up a separation agreement for you. It’s a relatively simple process. You sign a retainer agreement, your attorney drafts a document for you, and you send it to your husband (who may or may not have an attorney) to negotiate a final draft. Usually, this process takes a few months but, depending on your husband, may take longer if he’s unwilling to negotiate. This is by far the cheapest way to involve an attorney, and you can be sure that your agreement gives you what you are entitled to receive under the law. It is your attorney’s job to represent you well and get you as much as possible.
With a Mediator
A mediator can also work with you to negotiate a separation agreement. You should, however, be very careful. A mediator may be an attorney, but probably isn’t. You should make sure to ask before you get too far in the process. Regardless, though, it is not the mediator’s job to represent you, or to make sure you get a fair deal in the process. The mediator is there to help you reach an agreement. Whether that agreement is good for you or not is a totally different story.
I recommend that, if you decide to use a mediator, you should meet with an attorney for an hour before and after your appointment with the mediator. Beforehand, you should go over with the attorney what you can expect to receive and have a range where you’re comfortable. Afterwards, you should meet with the attorney before you sign to make sure that you understand what you’re agreeing to—because there’s no going back later.
Using an Online Source
There are also lots of online sources that claim to help you draft a separation agreement. In many cases, they will provide you with a form document so that you can pretty much just fill in the blanks. If you know what you’re doing, this could certainly be a good option—but, of course, you’d have to be pretty sure that you were comfortable in your knowledge of the law and your entitlements under it. You’d also have to be relatively certain that your husband would agree; online sources don’t provide any troubleshooting in the event that your husband is more difficult than you anticipated.
Remember that the goal here is not just to get divorced, but to provide yourself with a blueprint for a fresh start. In order to guarantee yourself the best, freshest start possible, you’ll need to make sure that your agreement gives you all the things you deserve under the law. You can cut corners in some cases, but you’ll have to ask yourself whether it’s truly worth it. Do you want to trust that the mediator will write a good agreement for you? Do you think you can do it yourself? Maybe so, but you’ll want to go in armed with as much information as possible.