Choosing a Divorce Process: What Are the Available Options?

The complexities of a divorce process depend on a variety of factors, including how long you were married, the residency requirement laws in your state, whether you have children together, own a home together, have significant differences in your income, are self-employed, unemployed, or have debt or joint assets.

If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is! Don’t worry, TruNorth Divorce is here to help you decode divorce. Your first course of action is to understand the different types of divorce processes and then know the right questions to ask as you debate what works best for you and your unique circumstances. In this piece, we go over available options and we’ll address which questions in our next post.


What are My Options for Divorce?


1. DIY Divorce

Most states provide access to free divorce forms online that you can download and fill out on your own. Generally speaking, though, it’s not a good idea unless you have no assets or children. Mistakes can cost thousands of dollars and you only get one chance to do it right. While it may seem like the most simple divorce process, it can end up being the most costly


2. Mediation

Mediation includes the use of a mediator, a neutral third party that does not “pick sides” but rather helps both spouses reach a mutually beneficial agreement without the case going to court. You and your spouse ultimately make the decisions but a good mediator isn’t so much a neutral as she is a “dual advocate.” In this role, she will help both spouses identify an optimal financial settlement and make choices that are most beneficial for you both. Other than DIY divorce, mediation is likely to be the least expensive, fastest, and least stressful of the options. It can be the most streamlined process of all.


3. Litigation

Often thought of as the de facto divorce process, litigating a divorce involves both parties having attorneys and involving the court to make decisions regarding support, division of assets, and custody. Litigation should only, though, be considered a last resort, as it’s lengthy and expensive, stressful, divisive, and you’re giving up control of the process and outcome. Sometimes, though, it’s unavoidable.


4. Negotiated Representation

An option where both parties are represented by their own lawyers who negotiate an agreement between them and minimize court involvement.. Compared to litigation, a negotiated settlement tends to be less expensive, shorter in duration, and is more confidential than a court-led process, protecting you and your family from public scrutiny.


5. Arbitration

This out of court process entails the resolution of a dispute through an award of damages to a party, decided upon by a neutral third party called an arbitrator. Decisions are binding, enforceable by law, and have very narrow grounds for appeal. The advantage, relative to litigation, is that you stay out of court  and maintain privacy.


6. Collaborative Law Process

Collaborative Law is a branded form of a team-supported divorce. Each spouse must be represented by their own attorney and the team includes a financial neutral and mental health professional. While team-supported divorce can be very beneficial, the Collaborative Law process is rigid and dictates that if it fails to produce an agreement on all aspects of the divorce, the couple must start anew with different attorneys.


Which Divorce Process is for me?

I hope that decrypts some of the complexities of navigating which divorce process is right for you. Our next post addresses the questions you need to consider as you decide. If you’re looking for more divorce guidance, please click over to my free ebook, 7 Things to Do Before You Divorce. Otherwise, message me on our TruNorth Divorce  Facebook page.









Should I Choose a Family Lawyer for My Divorce?

family lawyer

When you make the decision to get divorced, you might find yourself wondering how to even begin the process. Do you need to hire a family lawyer? Most of us have seen divorce portrayed in movie scenes with cutthroat attorneys arguing back and forth over the family home and possessions. Affairs are uncovered, crimes are plotted, and things always seem to be very complicated.

But what most folks don’t realize is that this isn’t an accurate representation, it’s Hollywood drama. The divorces of the real world rarely play out like that and would make for terrible entertainment. The truth is, that unless you have personal experience, you probably don’t realize that for amicably parting couples, divorce is largely a financial transaction. Most divorces never make it to the courtroom.

Many divorcing couples choose to work with family divorce mediators over hiring a family lawyer. One of the reasons for this is that it’s often the least cumbersome and most cost-efficient path to an uncontested divorce. Litigation is usually the last choice, but whether you end up in court really depends on how willing both spouses are to negotiate and compromise on sometimes complicated financial and parenting issues.

So, how do you determine whether choosing to hire a family lawyer or hiring a mediator is appropriate for you?


♦ Things are Messy and the Divorce Settlement Process is Involved

If you are involved in a contested divorce filled with pain points and emotional turmoil, hiring a family law lawyer is probably a smart move. Divorce mediation requires collaboration. If you can’t see eye-to-eye and every open dialogue during the negotiation process somehow reaches an impasse, mediation may not be right for your divorce.

♦ There is a Serious Threat of Violence Involved in Your Relationship

Mediation is not recommended if you are exiting an abusive marriage. Breaking away from an abusive relationship presents its own set of challenges. Your soon-to-be-ex-spouse has already demonstrated that they are not concerned about your well-being. The state of Maryland provides some dedicated resources for victims of domestic violence. You can also call 1-800-MD-HELPS for support.


Family Divorce Mediation as an Alternate to Attorney Services

If your divorce is uncontested, mediation may be the right choice for you. Mediators who specialize in divorce should be knowledgeable about state laws and legal procedures and skilled in divorce settlement negotiation. When you separate the emotional aspect from the act of divorce, finances and the division of shared marital assets becomes the focus of negotiation. That’s why some mediators become Certified Divorce Financial Analysts® (CDFA®), refining their skillset to help clients expertly navigate any financial pitfalls when it comes to dividing marital assets. CDFAs® specialize in identifying financially sound and creative divorce settlements that take the interests of both parties involved into account. With a CDFA® you get an optimal settlement that is based on accurate valuations, taxes, and both the short and long term impact on your financial health.

Filing Legal Documents and Retaining a Lawyer

Some divorcing couples work with mediators but also decide to retain a family law attorney to review the final documents and paperwork before officially filing. While this isn’t necessary and many divorcing couples choose to circumvent the process to save money on attorney fees, TruNorth Divorce doesn’t discourage clients from working with a family lawyer as a consultant. 

Processing your divorce does not require that you work with an attorney. At TruNorth Divorce we offer assisted and full-service divorce processing–you will never have to speak with an attorne or step foot in a courthouse!

Additional Support

Going through a divorce can be difficult. But remember, you aren’t alone. As with any stressful life event, it’s good to reach out to your support network. While friends and family offer one such avenue of support, talking to a counsellor or mental health professional and seeking out divorce support groups are healthy paths that can help you through this big life transition. Visit our website to learn more about divorce mediation, explore our resources, or schedule a free consultation.

Four Divorce Mediation Tips

The decision to divorce is never easy, but that doesn’t mean that settling your divorce needs to be complicated. Most modern divorces are seen as a division of shared property and the majority of today’s divorces never even enter the court system beyond the basic paperwork and procedure.

For individuals who are involved in uncontested divorces, mediation can be a quick and cost-effective alternative to working with a lawyer. But how do you go about divorce mediation, and what can you do to help smooth out the process? TruNorth Divorce Solutions offers a few divorce mediation tips to better set you up for success.

1.  Consider divorce mediation

It’s not uncommon for couples involved in uncontested divorces to seek out divorce mediation services as an alternative to shelling out the big bucks for a family law lawyer. In Maryland (and across the United States), divorce mediation is quickly becoming a popular alternative to working with family law attorneys. 

The most important divorce tip, once you’ve decided on mediation, is to the first step is to spend some time exploring your local options. Do your research so you know what to expect. A good mediator won’t mind answering questions about their professional experience, services, and metrics of success. Interviewing your mediator during your initial consultation can help you gauge your prospective mediator’s expertise and whether or not they fit your needs. 


2.  Don’t forget to consider the taxes

Some say taxes are one of the only two things you can’t escape in this life. One of the most common divorce settlement mistakes that divorcing couples make when selling and dividing joint assets—like retirement accounts and the family home—is that they don’t consider the taxes.

Failing to account for tax considerations when dividing marital assets can throw a major wrench into the system despite best intentions. Things aren’t always apples-to-apples and not all retirement accounts are governed by the same tax laws. An experienced divorce mediator can help navigate any tax issues that arise along the way, such as whether or not you need to get a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO).  


3.  Get your custody arrangements in writing

When it comes to divorce mediation tips, getting custody arrangements in writing is high on the list. Parents who don’t create a parenting plan ahead of time might get blindsided down the road and getting things in writing will help hold you and your soon-to-be-ex accountable. Taking the time to hash out your co-parenting schedule and expectations can help you avoid future hiccups when it comes to parental duties.

Remember, it’s important to remain flexible and treat your co-parenting plan as an adjustable framework. Schedules may change and dates might need to be shuffled around to accommodate that surprise business trip work sprung on you last minute. It’s a great idea to discuss your summer co-parenting plans yearly.


4.  Consider your post-divorce budget

While not a mistake made during the mediation process, post-divorce budgeting is a topic worth touching on. Being realistic about your post-divorce budget is a crucial step for independent financial success.

Unless you were the sole breadwinner bringing that bacon to the table, your household income is going to decrease during the transition from a double to a single income household and your expenses often increase because they’re no longer shared. It’s important to assess your post-divorce finances and make adjustments to account for changes in income and expenses. Be sure to speak with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst to help you plan for your future and make the best choices during your divorce.


These are just a few divorce mediation tips to help guide you through some of the pitfalls. Considering divorce mediation?  Schedule a free strategy session online.

5 Interview Questions for a Divorce Mediator in Annapolis

 So, you’ve decided to seek a mediation for your divorce, and you’re exploring local options. With emotions running high, picking a divorce mediator in Annapolis can seem like a daunting task. The professional you decide to work with needs to hold a level of your trust—after all, they will be helping you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse navigate the murky waters of divorce.

Choosing a mediator that fits your needs is a careful decision, it’s a good idea to do your homework ahead of time. Thinking about the types of things you might ask a professional mediator before you make the decision to commit to one is a good way to prep for an initial consultation. TruNorth Divorce Solutions has put together a quick list of questions that you might want to ask your prospective mediator.

1.     How do you define success? How do you facilitate this during the mediation process?

This is a great question to ask during your initial meeting with a professional divorce mediator because odds are that this is the first time you’ve sought out a divorce mediation and are unsure about how the process works. Mediation is a collaborative effort between you, your ex, and the mediator you choose to work with.

It’s important to outline expectations before the mediation process begins, and this question can really flush out some of those expectations. Ideally, you want to work towards a divorce settlement that both parties are happy with. Your prospective mediator may go into detail about their strengths and what they bring to the negotiation table.


2.     What is your success rate?

This is a great follow up question to ask in tandem with how your mediator defines success. The answer to this question can provide some much-needed confidence and really influence your choice.

The mediator will probably touch on the depth of their experience in the industry and how many divorcing couples they have worked with. They might also have some metrics (i.e., that they have successfully mediated XX divorces in the Annapolis area for X years) of success to share with you that reflect their professional expertise. They may even share some relevant anecdotes.


3.     How much does mediation cost?

Ah, the price tag. An important question. Make sure to get these details during your initial consultation. Your mediator may bill hourly or have a flat rate mediation fee. While one divorce mediator in Annapolis may charge $1000 an hour for their services another may have a flat rate fee for services of $7000. Don’t make assumptions and ask for rates up front.

Remember, price isn’t always the main consideration behind choosing a mediator and shouldn’t necessarily deter you. While it is important to stay on budget, you should also consider the level of skill and expertise that the mediator has to offer.


4.     How long is each mediation session/how long does mediation typically last?

Another great question to ask your divorce mediator is how long each session will last and how long the process takes overall. These questions can be particularly salient if your mediator bills by the hour. 

 The answer to this question also gives you an idea of how much time you will need to carve out of your schedule for the mediation process. You can also ask about whether your mediator holds private sessions (depending on your circumstances) and other questions surrounding the level of commitment expected of you.

5.      What do your services include?

Being unfamiliar with mediation, you probably want to ask about what is included with their services. Is the mediator drafting up divorce settlement documents for you? Will they be filing them on your behalf? Will you have to pay additional court costs or those included? Asking this question up front will help give you a clear picture of what to expect of your mediator. 

Any reputable mediator would welcome these questions during your consultation, so you shouldn’t hesitate to ask. Looking for a divorce mediator in the Annapolis area? Contact TruNorth Divorce Solutions for a free divorce strategy session. 



Get A free Consultation


How Much Does Divorce Mediation Cost?

What is the Price of Peace?

Every divorce has a price tag—filing fees, divorce attorney or mediator fees, and other court-related expenses total up quicker than you might think. So, what is the price to pay for peace? The answer to this question largely depends on how you go about getting divorced.

What can you do to keep divorce costs down? TruNorth Divorce Solutions sheds some insight into the true cost of divorce and provides some pointers to help you avoid breaking the bank.

1. Why does divorce cost so much?

Divorce is never one-size-fits-all—no two are the same. But while the nitty gritty details vary by situation, there are a few common factors that draw out the process and drive costs up.

Contested divorces are usually rooted with irreconcilable conflicts and tough emotions, and this really complicates the divorce process. Generally, these types of divorces go to court to be settled because resolving things amicably through cooperative efforts is next to impossible.

What does this have to do with the cost of your divorce? Time spent is the answer. The divorce process is essentially a negotiation and when an agreement can’t be easily reached, the time of divorce attorneys, the court and its officials, other family law professionals is enlisted to help arrive at a divorce settlement agreement. 

2. Filing costs

The cost to formally file for divorce through the court varies by state. In the state of Maryland, for example, the average cost to file with the court is $185 (if you hire an attorney; $165 if you are representing yourself—although this is not generally advised if you have joint assets). There are other costs associated with serving your ex with an official decree of divorce.

Things can snowball quickly in a contested divorce because it’s hard to reach an agreement. Court appearances, responding to motions, filing paperwork, and the cost of the time of the professionals involved during the process all add a divorce’s overall price tag. 

3. Legal representation

One of the biggest expenses in any divorce are attorney fees—hourly rates for family law attorneys can be pricey. According to Bankrate, the average cost of a US divorce is around $15,000. Divorce lawyers generally bill for your initial consultation and then establish an hourly rate going forward.

It’s important to familiarize yourself with the services your lawyer provides, and it’s also a good idea to have them disclose billing practices up front so that there aren’t any surprises down the road. Never go in blind. 

Pro-tip: Picking up legwork by getting paperwork and relevant account statements together can help you save on billable hours. Being organizationally savvy and providing an accurate and clear picture of your finances can end up saving you a good chunk of change.

Divorce Mediation Cost - all of the costs involved

4. Divorce mediation cost instead of court

It’s not uncommon for separating couples seeking an uncontested divorce to enter private mediation instead of going through the court system—but how much does divorce mediation cost? According to Thumbtack, divorce mediation costs can range anywhere from $100 and $1000 an hour in the US and an overall cost anywhere between $3,500 and $7,500 (some mediators charge more for services than others and cost varies widely by state). Some professional mediators have an established fixed fee for their services.

Professional mediators who have financial and legal backgrounds can help speed up the divorce process and save you money. But remember, the best option isn’t always the most affordable option. Do some research and make sure you end up with a good fit. 

Mediation may be an easier path to divorce, but is choosing to work with divorce mediator right for you? Choosing to work with a divorce mediator can save you a load of time, stress, and money. A professional divorce mediator possesses the expertise of a lawyer and may also bring a financial services background to the table.  

While divorce is an expense, there is no reason to break the bank. Remember, with a little financial savviness and education, you can offset some of the cost. Want to explore whether divorce mediation is a good fit for you? Contact TruNorth Divorce Solutions for a free consultation.