Focus on the Family

Defining Divorce

In spite of the legal system's best efforts to make divorce "easier," it's still a messy process,

by Holly Hudson

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to recognize that divorce is happening at alarming rates in America. While actual numbers are disputed, statistical reports have estimated anywhere from 33 percent to 50 percent of today's marriages end in divorce. Grounds for divorce vary from state to state. In some, it's easier to file for divorce than it is to file for bankruptcy. Obviously, priorities have changed.

Contested and Uncontested Divorce

Divorce cases are identified as "contested" and "uncontested." "Contested" cases are those in which the couple can't agree on how to work out issues such as division of assets, child support, alimony, etc. Spouses who agree on such matters and don't need their lawyers to help make those decisions have an "uncontested" case.

When couples begin a contested divorce but then are able to agree about the terms of the divorce, they come to a settlement. Settlements are a relatively peaceable end to legal proceedings, though the couple still faces an emotional roller coaster of grief in light of their tremendous loss.

Mediation

Some divorcing couples seek mediation instead of litigation. The mediator, a qualified but neutral party, facilitates agreement on divorce terms. This approach isn't recommended when issues of control, intense conflict or domestic violence are present.

Limited Divorces and Separations

Marriages that are not completely severed are called limited divorces or separations. The spouses no longer live together but are still married. Marriages that, with significant evidence, are declared to never have existed are annulled.

"Easy" Divorce

In spite of the legal system's best efforts to make divorce "easier," it's still a messy process, not just logistically but emotionally. Both spouses are often left with lasting emotional pain and regret. Some conflicts remain unresolved, allowing resentment to fester. Either spouse can experience anger, anxiety, depression and other emotions that affect them physically. The list of divorce's negative effects on people runs long. No matter how inexpensive the proceedings are or how necessary the split seems to be, divorce always comes at an excruciating price.