Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Divorce - Understanding the Options

Divorce, like marriage, is a part of life. And, though it usually has unavoidable side-effects and consequences, the act of ending a marriage is often the healthiest solution for all parties involved. When a married couple is contemplating terminating their marriage, I believe there are several options they should consider.

Five Options: Voluntary Separation, Legal Separation, Uncontested Divorce, Contested Divorce, and Collaborative Divorce.
Voluntary Separation - When husband and wife decide to split up without taking any sort of legal action, they are said to be voluntarily separated. This simply means that they have decided to live apart for the time being. They are still married with each and every right that goes along with the legal union.

Legal Separation - Almost no one is aware that Alabama offers an alternative to divorce that allows the parties to live apart, to divide property, to determine custody of the children, and to allocate child support and alimony, without actually ending their marriage. A legal separation basically does all of the same things as a divorce but does not terminate the marriage. It allows the couple time and space to reflect on their relationship and whether the possibility of reconciliation exists. If not, a divorce is an easy next step - the court may simply incorporate the rules that governed the separation.

Uncontested Divorce - Often times, both husband and wife realize their marriage is over. Instead of sadness, they feel a sense of relief that they are ending a relationship that has caused themselves and the other distress and harm. There is no feuding or fighting, just a desire to end the marriage. If both husband and wife agree about how their property should be divided, how their marital debt should be allocated, how custody should be allocated, and so on, an uncontested divorce is possible. There are several benefits to this type of divorce. It's quick. It's relatively inexpensive ($650 + filing fees). It's easy on the parties.

Contested Divorce - When the parties do not agree, when one person does not want a divorce and one does, or when both parties feel the need to protect their interests and each hire a lawyer, the divorce is contested. In essence, this means the process of ending the marriage will be long and drawn out, sometimes nasty, and more than likely expensive ($2,000 retainer).

Collaborative Divorce - Divorce decrees issued by trial judges often leave one side unhappy. The process of collaborative divorce arose to allow both parties to work together to reach an amicable settlement. The process works by utilizing lawyers and family professionals and counselors in an effort to help the husband and wife decide what each truly wants and is willing to compromise on. This avoids the uncertainty of allowing a trial judge to decide. Collaborative divorce is still a growing phenomenon.

Trust this helps answer some basic questions you may have. If not, don't hesitate to contact Jonathan D. Watson, Decatur and Huntsville divorce lawyer. And, as always, my best.

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