Divorce Legal Options

It is important to understand there are various legal options when getting divorced (See the chart below) .  Whether it is through mediation, Pro-Se (without an attorney), traditional (both sides have an attorney and go directly to litigation), or collaborative, we can be a support and provide valuable insight to any method.


NameDescriptionBest Used ForAdvantagesDisadvantages
Legal SeparationSeparated by law, but not yet divorced

  • Couple does not want to finalize divorce

  • Religious or other reasons

  • Can have child support, maintenance, and property settlement

  • Gives children and spouse time to adjust

  • Gives couple time to settle property

  • May retain health insurance

  • May prolong process

  • May be more expensive

  • "New life" may not be possible

Pro-SeDivorces filed without the assistance of an attorney, sometimes by purchase of divorce kits. Spouses can complete them, and pay the filing fee.

  • Couples with few disputes

  • Couples with few assets – and those easily divisible

  • Childless couples

  • Inexpensive

  • Fairly quick

  • May make legal mistakes

  • May make financial errors calculating maintenance or division of property & debt allocation

  • Don’t have anyone on your side, attorney or financial planner

MediationCouple uses a mediator to help voluntarily settle disputes over issues. Mediator may help draw up paperwork

Mediator may or may not be an attorney
Couples who have issues to settle, but nothing that has to go to court

  • Can be less expensive than traditional method

  • Neutral third party, experienced in mediation

  • Less adversarial

  • No one completely "on your side"

  • Not appropriate if spouse becomes difficult

  • May need to resort to traditional divorce

  • Either party (or both) may decide to retain attorney

  • Even if mediator is an attorney, each may need review of paperwork by separate attorney (QDROs, etc.)

Single Attorney for couple

  • Couple retains a single attorney to file for divorce for both.

  • All paperwork completed and filed by attorney

Note: Ethically, attorney may only represent one party
Reasonable, amicable divorces

  • Less expensive than 2 attorneys

  • Less adversarial

  • Can be a fairly quick process

  • One party has attorney, the other does not

  • Not appropriate if spouse becomes difficult


  • Each side has an attorney

  • May or may not be adversarial

  • Includes Requests for information, required status conferences and negotiating

Situations where spouse is difficult, non-cooperative

  • Someone completely on your side

  • Expert confidential legal advice

  • Most comfortable, and conservative approach

  • Can be adversarial

  • Can be expensive

  • Is not always a cooperative experience

  • May become a longer process

CollaborativeA fairly new approach to divorce.

  • Each side has attorney

  • Each side has access to specialists (therapists, divorce planners, etc.)

  • All professionals have been trained in collaborative process

  • All agree to collaboration and working together to resolve issues

  • If this fails, the attorneys drop out, and the spouses retain other counsel – and may go to the traditional divorce method or other method

Couples with significant assets, and disputes, but who are willing to go through mediation-type process divorce

  • Less expensive than a traditional contested

  • May be more productive

  • Each party has a person looking out for their best interests

Raymond James financial advisors do not render tax or legal advice. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professionals.


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