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By Colleen Honquest

There are different types of divorce in the United States — some of which are amicable, and some of which tend to be more high-conflict.  Here are five of the most common types:

Litigated Divorce:

A litigated divorce is usually the most complicated and difficult type of divorce. It  involves both parties hiring separate attorneys and taking contentious issues before the court for the judge to decide. There are typically settlement negotiations, hearings, and in extreme cases, even a trial. This form of divorce may be necessary when the divorcing couple have substantial assets or disagreements surrounding custody and parenting. If there is contention, this is the most costly option for divorcing couples.

Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative divorce is another type of divorce process that does not require court involvement. In this scenario, both parties retain their own collaboratively-trained attorneys. This type of divorce empowers the couple to make their own decisions and to help craft their agreements. This can be much less costly than litigation and less stressful on the individuals and their children. The divorcing spouses sign an agreement at the beginning of this process, committing to working together to reach an agreement.

If they do not honor this agreement, the lawyers will withdraw from the case and the spouses will need to start from the beginning. This is often a great motivation for couples to keep working on the process until an agreement is reached.


Comparatively, mediation tends to have the least amount of conflict as far as divorce options go. While some couples want to stay agreeable and negotiate the terms of their divorce peacefully, they often still need a little help from a neutral third party. This is where mediation comes in. A mediator does not make any decisions, rather he or she facilitates tough conversations in a structured environment to allow the divorcing couple to reach a consensus. The ultimate goal is an agreement that can then be finalized before a judge. Mediation tends to be less expensive than both parties using lawyers.

Limited Scope Representation:

Limited scope representation, or “unbundled legal services,” is an arrangement where a lawyer agrees to help with part of a legal case, but not all of it, usually for a reduced fee.  In a limited scope representation, the lawyer and client work together to divide up the tasks in the case and to decide who is responsible for each one. If you do this, you should sign a written agreement with your lawyer that says what services they will provide. You will be responsible for every other part of your case.

Pro Se

Pro Se is when an individual or couple chooses to prepare and file their divorce paperwork and agreements on their own without hiring an attorney. This can be economical and can work well as long as both parties are aware of their rights and the agreements are structured fairly. There are many websites and state resources that are very helpful to an individual who chooses to go pro se.

Colleen Honquest, Certified Divorce Coach and Divorce Mediator and Principal at DivorceMD, LLC.

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“DivorceMD is not a legal advice site. Any information on this website is not to be construed as legal advice. Please seek the help of an attorney for your legal technical questions. All of the materials are intended for our users to take to an attorney and get their input before using the materials in your case. We are not responsible for how you or your attorney may use any materials or information that we share with you.”

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