A Primer on Different Types of Divorce in the U.S.

By Stephen Kolodny

Stephen Kolodny is a family law attorney based in Beverly Hills, California. A Founding Partner at Kolodny & Anteau, Kolodny specializes in high-litigation divorce proceedings. Divorce law across the United States varies, and couples can pursue several avenues to obtain a dissolution of their marriage. Below is an introduction to various types of divorce.
1. At-Fault Divorce. Until California introduced the no-fault divorce in 1970s, individuals had to prove that their spouses perpetrated an act that made a marriage irreconcilable. An at-fault divorce is still the term used to describe a divorce in which a spouse commits an act of adultery or something similar.

2. No-Fault Divorce. In a no-fault divorce, one or both spouses can file for a marriage and be granted a divorce because the marriage has broken down and is no longer compatible for any number of reasons. No-fault divorce is now available in every U.S. state and the District of Columbia.

3. Uncontested Divorce. This term refers to divorces in which both parties come to an agreement on the divorce, property, custody, and support issues and no litigation is required.

4. Collaborative Divorce. In a collaborative divorce, the ex-spouses receive guidance through the divorce process from a legal professional, and enter into an agreement that states that neither party will commence litigation during the process. If a collaborative divorce fails, the attorneys retained cannot participate in the later court proceedings.

5. Summary Divorce. In some places, couples can obtain a summary divorce if they meet certain requirements, including being married for no more than five years, not having children or a mortgage, and having a low income. This is also called a simple divorce, because it is less expensive, less complicated, and often much faster than traditional divorce proceedings.

6. Electronic Divorce. This gives spouses the option to electronically file for an uncontested, no-fault divorce from a non-judicial administrative entity.

7. Mediated Divorce. In a mediated divorce, the spouses talk about their differences and resolve issues with the help of a mediator. This is similar to collaborative divorce, except that a mediator works on behalf of both parties, rather than each party employing their own counsel.


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