How do you decide which approach to take? Which is the least expensive? When should you pay to go to trial, and when is it safe to avoid it? What is collaborative divorce and how does it differ from mediation?
Obviously putting yourselves and your kids through legal proceedings is the worst option, and the most you and your spouse can decide amicably and informally without fighting through lawyers is preferable to litigation to reduce stress on everyone. When you file a family law dissolution case, you're given options to resolve the details, and while the state has jurisdiction over your marriage and divorce and making sure the kids' best interests are the focus, you can and should, if possible, do all the decision-making between yourselves and only use a lawyer or lawyers (you can share a lawyer if you agree to waive conflicts, which cuts down on the tendency to argue) to document your agreements and take care of the necessary paperwork with the court.
Disclaimer: Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.
Divorce / Separation Lawyer
Parents who decide to get divorced have many options. Two excellent processes that are very child-centric are mediation and collaborative law. In mediation, the spouses/parents meet and work with a mediator who helps facilitate dialogue between the spouses/parents with the goal of reaching resolution of all issues attendant to a divorce. The mediator functions as a neutral and does not represent either spouse. This process can be very helpful to parents interested in maintain a positive co-parenting relationship that will continue post-divorce. Another excellent option for divorcing parents is collaborative law. In the collaborative process, each parent/spouse is represented by an attorney trained in collaborative law. The parties and counsel agree that they will refrain from litigation and focus on settlement of all issues. Issues are discussed and resolved through a series of meetings attended by the parents/spouses, their attorneys, and a collaboratively trained mental health professional who functions as a neutral process facilitator. The mental health professional assists the spouses in managing their emotions so they can focus their energies on brainstorming options and problem solving. The parents commit to discussing all child-related issues with the children's best interests as their first priority. The parents may choose to add a child specialist to the "team" to provide insight and guidance on particular child-related issues. All of the research shows that how children fare post-divorce is directly related to the level of conflict between their parents. Both of these processes have the strongest potential for fostering positive, healthy co-parenting relationships during and after the divorce process.