Keeping Your Family Strong--Even Through Divorce

Three Alternatives To A Traditional Divorce

by Kristen Wright

Marriages are meant to last for a lifetime, but unfortunately, this is not always true. Sometimes spouses simply don't want to continue on as partners. Regardless of the reason, ending a marital union is not uncommon. The usual way to dissolve a marriage is through the traditional divorce process, but in some cases, other options are available.

Summary Divorce

A summary divorce is a special legal procedure that allows couples to dissolve a marriage more rapidly and with fewer complications than a traditional or standard divorce. This process can let a couple end their marriage just by filing a minimal amount of paperwork with the court. Summary divorces save time as they generally require fewer court appearances than traditional divorce proceedings.

You must meet certain requirements to be eligible for a summary divorce. The exact requirements vary from state to state, but typically the marriage should be less than five years old with no large property division involved. Also, state law might mandate that there are no children from the marriage and neither partner is asking for spousal support.


Another option is for both spouses to enter into mediation so that a court proceeding where a judge decides the outstanding issues is avoided. The advantage of mediation is that each spouse avoids a potentially unfavorable ruling from the family court judge. The two spouses meet with a trained mediator to work out their differences in a private setting rather than a public courtroom. 

You do not necessarily need to have an attorney present during a mediation session, but it's a good idea to have one with you anyway to make sure that your interests are protected. At the very least, you need to have a divorce attorney look over any agreement before it's finalized and presented to the court for approval.

Legal Separation

Another alternative for couples who no longer want to live together as partners but do not want to divorce is legal separation. A legal separation is where the law acknowledges that a couple is going to lead separate lives, but does not demand that the partners end the marriage. 

Typically spouses who get a legal separation will need to deal with the same issues that are resolved in a traditional divorce, such as child custody, division of property, and spousal support. For this reason, a divorce lawyer should be obtained by a spouse who wants a legal separation, even though no divorce is actually contemplated.

To learn more about alternatives to traditional divorce, consult a divorce attorney near you.