Relationships > Breakups > 4 Different Types of Divorce – The Pros and Cons

4 Different Types of Divorce – The Pros and Cons

This summary of four different types of divorce will help you know how to get divorced. Self-representation, divorce mediation, collaborative divorce, and traditional litigation are described here – as well as the advantages, disadvantages, and approximate cost of each type of divorce.

“There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist or accept the responsibility for changing them.” – Denis Waitley.

Deciding to get a divorce was probably a long, difficult process for you – and finally going forward with divorce proceedings may feel like a weight has been lifted!  You’re taking responsibility for your life, even if you don’t quite know how to get divorced. These options might help you decide what path to take…

1. Self-Representation or In Propria Persona

If you file for divorce yourself, you’re responsible for all the paperwork, deciphering the legal issues, and stating your case to the other side. Self-representation is low-cost, but Susan Pease Gadoua, author of Contemplating Divorce: A Step-by-Step Guide to Deciding Whether to Stay or Go, says it this method of filing for divorce isn’t a beneficial as hiring a divorce attorney.

However, getting a divorce through self-representation can work well if you have low assets and no controversy – and aren’t too emotionally involved in the outcome of the divorce proceedings. This type of divorce is for couples with little to lose.

If you’re still thinking about divorce, read How to Leave Your Husband – From Thinking to Getting Divorced.

2. Divorce Mediation

A trained neutral third party (a divorce mediator) can help you get a divorce and ensure you come to a mutually satisfactory divorce agreement. The cost of this type of divorce can be low, moderate, or high, depending on the mediator and the length of time the divorce proceedings take.

Divorce mediation most often saves money, but emotional power or financial knowledge imbalances can affect the outcome. Divorce mediation works best when both spouses have equal knowledge of financial assets. A divorce mediator may also give you advice on rebuilding your life after getting a divorce.

3. Collaborative Divorce – a Newer Type of Divorce

different types of divorceGadoua describes this as a new way to file for divorce; collaborative divorce involves two divorce attorneys and two divorce coaches, a financial specialist, and a child specialist. A collaborative divorce focuses on achieving common goals, such as what’s best for the kids, and is driven by the spouses’ wants and needs. This type of divorce can quick and efficient, and may improve your relationship with your spouse in the long run.

A collaborative divorce is moderately to highly expensive, and scheduling time for all parties (divorce attorneys, divorce coaches, the financial specialist, the child specialist) to meet can be a disadvantage.

4. Litigation – The Traditional Way to Get Divorced

Each spouse hires a divorce attorney; the best divorce litigators are aggressive and will pursue any and all assets they can for their clients. Divorce litigation can be very expensive for divorcing couples, and can drag on for years.

“While the majority of cases settle prior to trial, almost all require periodic appearances, at least by counsel, at hearings and conferences,” writes Gadoua in Contemplating Divorce. “But there is always the risk that, if a point cannot be negotiated, it will end up before a judge. If this happens, it is almost guaranteed that the case will cost a great deal more money, take more time, and be much more emotionally draining on both parties.” Divorce litigation is likely to take longer than self-representation, divorce mediation, or collaborative divorce.

If you’re already looking ahead, read Dating After Divorce – 3 Things You Need to Know.

What are your thoughts on these different types of divorce? Feel free to share below. I can’t offer advice, but you may find it helpful to share your experience.

For more information about getting divorced, read Contemplating Divorce: A Step-by-Step Guide to Deciding Whether to Stay or Go by Susan Pease Gadoua – it’s a solid resource for couples with marriage problems.


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7 thoughts on “4 Different Types of Divorce – The Pros and Cons”

  1. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks Sydney – I really appreciate your advice to Karen!

    Karen – I want to add a “congratulations!” and applaud you for your courage to move out. It must be difficult to leave, after all those years. Leaving even the worst marriage in the world can be hard.

    I find it hard to believe that you’d forfeit all your rights to an equitable divorce simply by moving out….but I find lots of things hard to believe! Call your local divorce resources — many cities have free legal advice for people.

    I hope this helps, and that you come back and let us know how things go.


  2. @Karen, I think depends on the laws in your state and the circumstances under which you left may also have an impact (e.g. your husband’s abuse). In the state where I live, you have to live under separate roofs for 12 months to get what’s called a “no-fault divorce” (uncontested), so moving out not only didn’t hurt, but it was what I needed to do. Again, that may differ from one state to another.

    I did a quick search and found the Modern Women’s Divorce Guide, which has a state-by-state list of resources that you might find helpful.

    Hoping that things will work out for you.

  3. Hello,
    I have been married for 35 years to a verbally abusive, self centered, deceiving and miserly man. We went through 2 years of marriage counseling–some things improved–but not enough for me to live with him.
    I couldn’t stand living in my home anymore (children are grown) and told him I’d move out–did this July 2010.
    He said he felt humiliated by my moving out. We have property assets and and my husbands business.

    Did I forfeit my rights to anything by moving out of my residence? I eventually want a divorce, but right now would settle for monetary support. Am I entitled to that?

    Thank you,

  4. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen


    Thanks for your comment — I’m glad this article provides a good summary of the different types of divorce! And, I agree — I hope more divorcing couples end their marriages with the more peaceful and less expensive collaborative divorce and divorce mediation.

  5. In my Northern Virginia family law practice, about 25% of my work is collaborative divorce and divorce mediation.  I think these are far better way for folks to divorce, and I look forward to the day when I am able to do far less divorce litigation. 

    Your article is quite helpful in giving folks a good nutshell on the options they have. Thanks.