Are all divorces the same? Readers of this California family law blog may know that the answer to this question is complicated. While all divorces that reach their end successfully sever the legal bonds that hold two people together in marriage, not all divorces follow the same paths to finality. The unique characteristics of the divorcing parties and the issues that they prioritize as important can cause their divorce proceedings to take on varying and diverse forms.

As previously discussed in posts on this blog, divorces can be resolved by a third party decision-maker (such as a judge or arbitrator), or by an agreement (through mediation, Collaborative process, or negotiation).  A litigated divorce is one that follows traditional paths through the courts. The parties end up divorced, but they may not have complete say in how their property is divided, their children’s custody is set and their financial matters are settled. These decisions are often left to the final discretion of the presiding judges, or, in the case of arbitration, the the arbitrator.

Mediated divorces also end in legally severed marriages but with more control from the parties. Through mediation, the parties may come up with their own parenting plans and custody schedules, may work out how they will divide up their community property and may agree to support terms that are agreeable to all involved. While the outcome may be the same, mediated divorces often result in more satisfaction, less stress and fewer costs than litigated divorces.

The goal of a divorce is simple: to end a marriage. While the vast majority of divorced aer resolved by a settlement, the path that a couple chooses to take in reaching that agreement can yield different benefits and results. It is up to the parties to determine what the best type of divorce is for them and then use that process to achieve their end-of-marriage priorities.