If you and your spouse live in the Maryland area and are considering moving forward with a separation or divorce, it is important to know all of your options. In past years, many couples assume they have to battle it out in court in order to obtain a divorce, but there are several options that make separation and divorce much more amicable. Through various Maryland Divorce Process Options and alternate dispute resolution, such as mediation, collaborative divorce or settlement negotiations, you can take control over your life in way that minimizes stress and financial strain.
Option 1: Divorce or Custody Mediation
The mediation process is a voluntary, non-adversarial, process involving a trained, impartial third party (mediator). The parties, not the mediator, make the agreement. The mediator has no power to render a decision or to force the parties to accept a settlement. If a mediator is also an attorney, the mediator may not give either party legal advice. Because the voluntary settlement that the parties reach is designed by the parties themselves, it is more likely to be carried out without the need for external enforcement or further litigation.
Option 2: Collaborative Divorce
In the collaborative divorce process, you and the other party each have a private collaboratively trained attorney and make a commitment to resolve your disputes without going to court. Similar to mediation, collaborative practice operates in the spirit of honesty and cooperation. Both parties, together with the professionals (attorneys, mental health, and financial experts), work as a team to resolve disputes respectfully with an emphasis on financial responsibility and cooperative co-parenting.
Option 3: Negotiating a Marital Settlement Agreement (a/k/a Property Settlement Agreement) for a Mutual Consent/Uncontested Divorce
If you and your spouse are able to agree on all or most of the terms of your case, including how you’ll split up your assets and debts, how you’ll handle custody of any children, and whether/how much support will be paid, a Marital Settlement Agreement, also commonly referred to as a Separation Agreement, can be written up and enforced by a judge. By entering into an Agreement, your divorce would be considered an uncontested divorce. You and your spouse can also work together in divorce mediation or in the collaborative divorce process to reach the terms of your Marital Settlement Agreement.
A Marital Separation Agreement, or property settlement agreement, is a binding contract between a married couple that resolves all issues arising from their marital relationship including, custody, child support, alimony/spousal support, and division of marital property. A marital separation agreement may be signed before or after you have filed for divorce – even while you and your spouse are still living together. As long as you and your spouse have a complete written separation agreement that addresses all issues underlined above, you will be eligible to pursue a divorce on mutual consent without having to be separated for 1 year.
Option 4: Do it Yourself (DIY) Divorce
The Do it Yourself divorce process can be done, but is not advisable. A DIY divorce consists of the parties representing themselves and filing court paperwork on their own behalf. Often, a DIY divorce can unfairly benefit one spouse over the other. Even if you reach an agreement that you think is fair, you may be missing out on benefits you deserve. If there’s a significant difference in incomes or if there are children involved, you may want to enlist the help of an attorney to ensure that you are getting a fair outcome from the divorce. If you are planning on getting a divorce and prefer not to hire an attorney, you are strongly urged to at least have an attorney review your documents before filing to help avoid mistakes that may cost you (or your children) in the long run.
Option 4: Litigation/ Contested Divorce
If you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement concerning all issues arising from the marital relationship, you may have no choice but to pursue litigation in a contested divorce where the court will make the decisions for you. Unfortunately, litigation can cost up to $50,000 or more and can take up to two or more years to be resolved.
Jacobson Family Law has chosen to dedicate our practice to working with clients who wish to resolve their family disputes without court intervention. We are committed to Keeping the Drama Out of your Divorce by avoiding lengthy, drawn-out court proceedings. If you have questions about the difference between an Uncontested Divorce and a Contested Divorce, or are interested in pursuing, an uncontested divorce in Maryland, contact us today at 443-741-1147 or Schedule a Consultation.