There are multiple types of divorce, and what distinguishes them is the level of agreement between spouses. The different types of divorce can therefore be thought of as existing on a spectrum, with the position on the spectrum representing the parties’ ability to come to an agreement on the issues. The position on this spectrum also impacts the likely expense in attorney fees.
On one end of the spectrum is uncontested divorce, in which the parties are in such agreement that they are able to prepare and sign the divorce papers without any kind of legal battle – although they may still require the assistance of lawyers if they have children or jointly owned property. Even if lawyers are involved, uncontested divorce is typically the most inexpensive type of divorce.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is contested divorce, also known as litigated divorce. In contested divorce, the two spouses’ divorce attorneys present their clients’ cases to a family court judge, who then issues a final decree containing a legal ruling on the divorce issues. Contested divorce is typically the most expensive type of divorce.
Between these two extremes of agreement and expense lie divorce mediation and collaborative divorce, both of which use specially structured meetings between the parties to resolve their differences.
Another distinction is whether a divorce is fault or no-fault. There was a time in the United States when a person who wanted divorce had to prove misconduct on their spouse’s part – the “fault” in fault divorce. While fault divorce is still an option, all states now offer no-fault divorce: any person can end his or her marriage for any reason, even if the other party doesn’t want a divorce (although the process may take a while).
Additionally, divorce may start as one type and change to another, due to negotiations or other circumstances.