What is an Amicable Divorce?

Amicable Divorce

What is an amicable divorce? When a divorce process is inevitable, a couple may begin to evaluate the options they have to resolve their divorce inexpensively and as cooperatively as possible. This question will especially crop up when the parties are on good terms with one another but need to separate their lives.  An amicable divorce may seem like it is an impossibility, but with the right mindset and goal, the parties may be able to resolve their divorce and find a way to meet each other in the middle of the issues. This article will explore the possibility of an amicable divorce by defining the term, discussing options for achieving such as divorce, looking at the costs, sharing tips for keeping cordial, and evaluating the real-life possibility of achieving an amicable divorce.  

Defining Amicable Divorce: 

An amicable divorce process means that the parties civilly resolve their divorce and move forward without a large fight.  The couple will reach an agreement about the terms and conditions of child visitation and custody, spousal and child support, and property division.  It does not mean that the parties will necessarily be friends when the divorce process is finalized, but it does mean that there will not be many fights in the decision.  Instead, the parties will work collaboratively to create a plan for their lives moving forward from the divorce and separate from each other. In practical terms, it often means an uncontested divorce or a divorce that is filled without disagreement as to the terms.  While this may be the position of the parties from the onset, it can also take work on behalf of the parties to agree down to the small details.  When the parties would like to achieve an amicable divorce, there are several methods that they can attempt to achieve these results.  

Methods for Amicable Divorce: 

There are a variety of methods that the parties may use to achieve an amicable divorce.  Some will be fairly straightforward and require little time, money, or discussion, while others will be more involved and include bringing in outside help to get the parties to an amicable resolution.  With most of these methods, the obvious goal is avoiding a trial where the parties spend time fighting over the details of their divorce, but as with any goal, there may be things that the parties are unable to agree on, and even the most considerate of divorces may end up needing judicial assistance.  However, if the parties are looking to try and resolve their divorce process without a fight, these methods may be helpful.  

  • Joint Petition: A joint petition is what the parties will file when they have negotiated the division of their lives and are looking to have the court confirm their divorce settlement agreement.  This may be done independently between the parties, or it may be achieved through negotiation through other means that will be discussed.  In its purest form, the joint petition will be filed when the parties agree that they should be divorced and are willing to sign the petition without much negotiation.  
  • Negotiation: Similarly, the parties can negotiate the division of their lives independently.  This will be done through offers and counteroffers until the parties reach a divorce agreement.  This is relatively simple and involves few outside people if the parties do not need further assistance to achieve a peaceful divorce.  
  • Mediation: The parties may also use mediation to accomplish their divorce.  Mediation is a guided negotiation process where a third-party neutral will guide the parties through the steps of negotiating to reach a collaborative agreement that will work for the parties moving forward.  The assistance of a third party may give the parties space to acknowledge what they need without coming across as adversarial.  It gives the parties space to evaluate an offer and provide feedback without addressing each other directly.  Mediators may be able to help the parties move around potential roadblocks by helping the parties identify creative counteroffers to achieve what they need. The parties may be represented, and the process involves a third-party guide, so it does become more involved.  
  • Collaborative Divorce: Another option for the parties to try and get to an amicable divorce is a collaborative divorce.  This is a process where the parties are represented by collaborative attorneys that try and help the parties reach an agreement.  The parties will sign agreements with their attorneys or other people involved that if the divorce needs to go to litigation, they will withdraw, meaning that the parties will need to find new attorneys and restart their whole case, giving them the motivation to achieve an agreement.  The parties may also use financial experts and child psychologists to better achieve an agreement that takes all of the lasting repercussions into account.   The parties will work together with their attorneys and their team to find a solution to even the messiest of divorces.  This method is involved and requires the parties to work to achieve the desired outcome, but it can help move past the most stubborn of roadblocks to get people to achieve an amicable resolution.  

Alongside these options, there are likely a variety of other dispute resolution processes that the parties may be able to use to achieve an amicable divorce.  However, these are the most commonly used processes and are therefore the most accessible.  When attempting to resolve a divorce amicably, the parties should consider these options.  

Expenses in Amicable Divorce: 

Another factor that often encourages the parties to look to resolve their divorce amicably is the cost of traditional divorce.  Between the filing fees, the divorce lawyers’ fees, and the loss of assets in the divorce, litigated divorces often come with a lot of expenses that can impact the outcome.  Amicable divorces may avoid some or all of the fees and costs that are present in a traditional divorce, but other expenses must be considered, depending on the method.  Considering the different costs that are present in litigated divorces, this article will evaluate how amicable divorce may be more cost-effective.  

  • Filing Fees: When the divorce papers are filed in court, the parties will often have to pay fees to file that paperwork.  This will be necessary to some extent in an amicable divorce, even in a pure joint position.  Every divorce will require the parties to file a petition and have a judge approve it to make the divorce final and legal.  However, in an amicable divorce, the parties may only need to file the joint petition, while traditional litigation requires other fees. 
  • Attorney’s Fees: Another common cost is attorney’s fees.  Hiring a good divorce lawyer can be expensive and can end up costing more than a party may recover from the divorce.  This cost may not be necessary for negotiation and mediation, but it will be a cost in a collaborative divorce.  These fees will be dependent on the attorneys that the parties hire and how much they need to work to reach an agreement.  
  • Neutral Fees: If going with mediation, the parties will need to pay a mediation fee.  While some states have programs to help the parties avoid the fee if it helps achieve a solution, this is still a cost that may need to be considered if using mediation.  
  • Expert Fees: This again will likely be a cost in both litigation and collaborative divorce.  When there are issues in the divorce that may require specialized knowledge, they may need to hire experts to help them work through these complicated issues.  Experts can be expensive to hire.  

Overall, the cost of an amicable divorce will be dependent on the method used and the issues that are involved.  However, when an amicable divorce is achieved through one of these options, the parties will likely end up paying less to outside influences and keep more of their money to start their new lives.  

Tips for Staying Amicable: 

If an amicable divorce is a goal, there are some tips to help the parties stay amicable as they venture into the uncontested divorce.  Following these guidelines can help the parties reach a cordial agreement, but they are not going to solve issues with the parties that do not want to achieve an amicable result.  However, keeping these in mind can serve as a guide to hopefully achieve the desired result.  

  • No-Fault: One of the first things a party can do to attempt to divorce amicably is to approach the divorce without placing blame on the other party.  This includes collaboratively asking for the divorce and choosing to avoid placing any fault on each other. Focusing on the fact that the parties cannot move forward together and attempting to achieve the division as smoothly as possible can help move the divorce forward well. 
  • Interests: Identifying the big picture needs for the parties to move forward will help the parties identify the issues that matter the most and help them avoid getting stuck in the small details of the divorce that will cause issues.  Focusing on achieving an agreement on the big stuff can help the parties be more giving and collaborative on the small things.  
  • Truthfulness: Being forthcoming with your assets and the issues that affect the division of property will help the divorce move forward amicably.  Withholding information can cause the other party to feel dismissed and may end up running any negotiations.  Approaching the negotiations in good faith will help the parties make adequate decisions.  
  • Environment: Consider the environment where the divorce is happening.  If the parties are in an adversarial environment, they will be less likely to achieve a resolution.  Creating a collaborative and neutral environment will help the parties cooperate effectively. 

Finally, if the couple has children, there is another tip that may be the most important.  

  • Best Interests: When a couple is divorcing and there are children, the parties need to consider what is in the best interests of their children.  Having their parents constantly fighting with each other to gain more control over the child’s custody will not help the children adjust or grow after the divorce.  When the parties can agree to co-parent effectively, the children will have the space to grow and thrive.  When parents focus on the well-being of their children, it will be easier for them to achieve an agreement that meets these needs.  

Keeping these considerations at the forefront of negotiations can help the parties find a way to meet their needs without harming the other.  This can make the parties consider what is necessary to move forward with what they need, even if it means compromising on something now.   

The Nitty Gritty: 

While this article has focused on how to achieve an amicable divorce, it is also important to consider if amicable divorce is even possible and if it is right for a particular situation.  While it may seem that the words amicable and divorce should never be used together, there are some instances where parties can achieve the desired outcome and reach an agreement.  However, there are times when an amicable divorce is not possible or detrimental.  Some of these disadvantages include that it is impossible to achieve if one or both spouses are unwilling to participate in good faith or are focused on recovering as much as possible without consideration of what the other party needs.  Additionally, if there is any abuse—whether physical, mental, or emotional—amicable divorce is impossible because there is an imbalance of power between the parties.  Yet outside of these circumstances, the parties can achieve a divorce that is quick, less painful, less expensive, and private.  When an amicable divorce works, it can be all the difference for the parties and can help them move forward effectively.