This is the fourth post of a serialization of Janet P. Brumley's book, Divorce Without Disaster. This post is Chapter 1, part 2 of the book.
From the vantage point of the divorcing parties, there are many methods based on the amount of cooperation couples must exhibit and how much outside help they need to resolve their disagreements.
Kitchen Table Approach - This is direct negotiation between the parties. It can work well if the parties are at a high-functioning point in their lives and can communicate with each other. You rarely find this during a divorce. If the parties can approach each other on an even footing, this is the most efficient and productive way to end a marriage. If not, this method allows for the domination, manipulation and coercion that frequently accompany the breakdown of a relationship.
Negotiation of Terms with a Therapist - This is pure mediation, even though the therapist may not be trained in mediation techniques. This method does not subject you to the legal system, but it also does not give you the benefit of legal advice. Parties frequently make agreements that are not enforceable in courts of law or omit issues that must be addressed in a divorce decree.
Collaborative Law - This involves open communication among both spouses and their attorneys. It allows for the parties to make agreements on all the issues that need to be addressed and makes certain such agreements are enforceable. It is true conflict resolution.
Mediation - This is done in a caucus or shuttle style. Agreements are frequently obtained on all issues in a form that is enforceable. It requires three attorneys - one for each party and one to act as mediator. Mediation usually takes place after a temporary orders hearing and after discovery is complete. Mediation is designed as the step just before a full trial.
Special Master/Arbitrator - This is a hearing before a private judge. You can get a speedier hearing this way than at the courthouse, in a setting that is more private and convenient than court. Nothing is resolved here, only ended.
Litigation - This is the most public, intrusive, damaging avenue for divorce. However, it does end the marriage and sometimes it is the only way that works for the situation and the parties involved.