Picking what’s Right for your Family


When one or both spouses decide the marriage needs to be dissolved, spouse(s) may be confused as to what options are right for their family. This article will shine light on available options that are all offered services by Smith & Smith Law Office.

The first set of options is dissolution or uncontested divorce. These options are both complete agreements prior to filing anything with the court. The distinction between the two options are that dissolution requires the parties to live separate and apart prior to finalization of the dissolution AND that both parties appear at the final hearing. If one of these options are not available, your attorney would draft the agreement in an uncontested divorce format. Either option REQUIRES a complete global agreement for terminating your marriage.

The second option is a contested divorce. Contested divorce is often used if there is not a global agreement, or there is a power imbalance (often resulting from a history of domestic violence) or distrust between the parties. Contested divorce starts with a party filing a complaint for divorce and negotiations occur in periodic formal meetings called pretrial conferences between attorneys (with or without parties) and court to attempt to settle the divorce. If the case remains unsettled, the case will likely be set for a final hearing in front of a judge or magistrate in a litigated hearing.

The third option is collaborative law. Collaborative law is a process to guide parties outside of litigation to reach a global agreement so that the parties can avoid the trauma and costs of a contested divorce. Collaborative law requires parties, attorneys, and any other neutral profession associated with the case to sign a contract that all information in the marriage will be presented freely and openly, and if collaborative law does not result in a complete agreement, then all attorneys and professionals are conflicted from litigation representation.

The fourth option is mediation. Mediation is not a process to dissolve the marriage, but a tool to assist spouses with or without attorneys to reach a global settlement outside of litigation. Mediation is an organized meeting between spouses and mediator to discuss all terms of a global settlement. The mediator will work with both spouses to attempt resolution on each term of a divorce resulting in a complete agreement or partial agreement. Mediation can be used at the beginning of the divorce process to avoid litigation or in the middle of litigation to avoid the cost and risk of a final hearing.

All four of these options are available at Smith & Smith Law Office. Each family is different, and no one option is best for all. The attorneys at Smith & Smith Law Office will work with each client to determine the best option for his, her, or their family.