How do I get divorced? Amicably? Advice needed.

My wife of 6 years and I are separated (have been living in separate cities for over a year) and a couple months ago decided that we should officially end it. Since then, we haven’t really moved forward with making it official - she’s done more than me, meaning at least some research into how and what to do, while I’ve pretty much just let it lie.

Well, now she wants to make it official. And I’m not sure what to do from here.

Of course, I’ll do some research on the 'net and talk to friends who have been through it, but also thought I’d consult the vast resources here.

A few things:

[li]We’re pretty amicable, still talk on the phone once per week or so[/li][li]We have no children, just two cats[/li][li]We own one house. I live in it currently, and situation probably won’t change due to job situations[/li][li]With a few exceptions, our money has always been lumped together. There were periods of time where she contributed more to our life than I, and vice versa.[/li][li]We each own our own car[/li][li]I seriously doubt alimony will be an issue, but know nothing of it. She has a full-time job and is going to school for her masters. I have a full time job (pays about twice what hers does).[/li][li]I live in Connecticut, she in Massachusetts.[/li][/ol]

My questions are things like do we need lawyers (I think we’d prefer not, save the money)? Would a lawyer be recommended regardless? If we both want to do this amicably, and neither of us (at this point) worry about the money too much, how likely will it be that it ends amicably?

Anyway, any suggestions, thoughts, resources or whatever would be much appreciated. It’s a somewhat sad situation, but at the same time we both realize it’s what’s for the best (it’s a simple matter of two people growing apart, not anything to do with affairs outside the marriage or anything).

Thanks in advance.

I have no legal advice to offer, but I want to commend you and your wife wanting to end things on a good note. Just because things don’t work out does not mean you have to go to a DEFCON 5 temper tantrum and make cake of yourself.

I am sure there are more lawyerly types aboard here that can help you out. In the mean time remember don’t slam the door closed, you never know if you might ever need to knock on in it in the future.

My advice, get a lawyer. My nephew tried a do-it-yourself divorce. It was a complete disaster and he had none of the property issues (they lived in the same state, didn’t own a house, etc.) that you have.

MY first wife and I hired one lawyer, told him we wanted to keep it peaceful and had him do the work. He made sure that we went through every asset, from cars to life insurance to who-got-the-antique-bureau-we-restored-by-hand. He filed the papers, got the court appearances set, and so on.

Amicable or not, you’ll be going through what may be one of the most stressful periods in your life. Hire a little professional help to get you through it.

Go the Divorce mediation route. Both of you settle on a mediator (most are JD’s), go through a series of meetings at which you come clean with financial documents, and simply (in your case) divide up the assets equally. You pay by the hour, and you share the costs.

It is recommended that you have a personal attorney look at the agreement before you sign it, but that is pretty simple and inexpensive. Just make sure that you aren’t getting screwed.

I’ve seen too many couples end up in an adversarial divorce end up paying thousands to attorneys and end up with virtually nothing.

You’ll have to swallow your pride and bite your tongue a lot, but in the end it is worth it. Mine cost about $600 total and it was more complicated than your situation.

Also, get this book.

We used a mediator, who was also an attorney and drew up all the paperwork. It worked out just fine. Also, for general info, there are books available at

I went through what was termed an amicable divorce two years ago. First thing: no matter how amicable you both want it, ugly things will happen. So get a cognitive behavior therapist for yourself. Short term, to help you get through this. Having a therapist does not mean you are a wimp. The divorce will tap emotions you never dreamed you had. Second thing: get a lawyer. Doesn’t have to be a shark, but get a divorce/family law lawyer. If you live in a state with “no fault” divorce, the lawyer shouldn’t cost more than $2,000. Because no matter how amicable you want things, there will be arguments about dividing stuff, like wine glasses. The lawyer will make sure stuff (especially money) is divided fairly. Third thing: make sure you show up for your court date. My ex-husband couldn’t be bothered and the judge wanted to cite him for contempt.

Good luck. It’s a very difficult thing to go through.

IAAL, for what that’s worth, and although this isn’t legal advice, I recommend mediation. It’s cheaper, faster, equitable, and far LESS ADVERSARIAL than a traditional court-adjudicated divorce. Here’s a simplified version of how it usually goes:

Most mediators (usually lawyers trained in what’s formally called “alternative dispute resolution” - sometimes former judges or active divorce attorneys looking to both get away from the psychosis-inducing field of modern divorce litigation and make an extra buck) will recommend that you come alone - that means no attorneys. Your mediator will sit down with both you and your former spouse, sometimes with the two of you together, sometimes individually/privately if there are issues that call for private discussion. Once you’ve worked out some sort of settlement (usually over the course of a half-dozen to a dozen sessions), you’ll both want to get separate, competent divorce attornies to review that settlement just to cover yourselves. Once your attornies have signed off on the agreement, that’s usually it.

Just to be sure, the key to a successful mediation is an open mind and a willingness on the part of both parties to compromise and make sacrifices. Mediation is not the place to go if one wants to be vindictive and take the house, the car, all of the kids, the dog, the china and half of one’s former spouse’s paychecks from now until the time one remarries. And, the previous poster was right to say that there will always disputes over unexpected things, even in a mediation. But if you’re looking to end your marriage in an amicable way that won’t give you a stress-induced heart attack or break your bank, and you have a good-faith willingness to compromise, mediation is the way to go.

Best of luck to you during these times.

Although this isn’t your case, I feel like I should add to my second to last paragraph in the above post that mediation is also not the place to go if you are being victimized or abused emotionally, physically or financially, or, for that matter, if there is a tremendous power imbalance in the relationship. If that’s the case, get yourself a good lawyer and, if necessary, deal with the proper authorities.

Again, best of luck.

I did the mediation route also and it worked great. Lets be honest, there’s no such thing as an easy divorce–it’s hard. But if you have two reasonable people (and it sounds like you both are), mediation is an excellent alternative. We paid a fee for the mediator’s services (something like $100, but it was about 4 years ago) and we paid $75 to have the papers drawn up. There was another fee to file but it wasn’t very much. On the whole, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. When I hear other peoples’ divorce nightmares I’m really grateful my ex and I were able to be so amicable. Good luck to you whatever you decide.

Based on your situation, I also think you should go mediation and have a Legal Agreement done.

I was married 10 years when we got divorced 4 years ago and we shared a house and kid. We managed to do so without going to go court once or visit any lawyers. I’ve known evil divorce lawyers who will conspire with the opposite side’s lawyer to run up the bills on frivolous stuff.

However, it does take 2 people who cannot let their emotions get out-of-hand when actually sitting down together to split everything up. Both people have also got be fair and not actively seek to “screw” the other person.

Until the legal agreement was finalized over a period of a couple months, my ex-wife had a tendency to let other bitter divorced women influence her to seek out a lawyer or take me to court. Since she can get very emotional, I often had to persuade her that it was not necessary, that I was not conspiring to take advantage of her. In other words, I sometimes had to “bend over backward” to convince her that I meant her no harm and only wanted to live a reasonable life by myself.

Unfortunately, I also had to resort to “benevolent manipulation” sometimes. That is, if she made a viable threat to sue me for a larger amount of child support, I’d convince her through my subtle actions and words that, ultimately, that would not be in her benefit. If I had paid more than $200 in child support, for example, I convinced her that my living in near poverty would have negative effects on raising my son properly and other relations.

Ultimately, it paid off because we get along fine now. I only pay $200 a month in child support and no alimony. I split extraordinary child expenses with her. She didn’t demand anything unreasonable from me and I respond fairly in kind to her. She helps me with things and I help her with things. We share responsiblity for our son equally and logically. Furthermore, I am the Godfather of her daughter (she got re-married).

Again, based on your description, I think you two don’t need lawyers or court. In fact, if you have a lot of money, I’d do everything I can to avoid using them. They’re like piranhas. But during the mediation process, control any impulses of anger that you may have and be very careful what you say when feeling emotional. Always keep the big picture in mind of what you want to accomplish. If she’s not strong emotionally, then you be the strong one. Work out an informal agreement on all aspect with her before you go to the mediator (i.e. paralegal). Good Luck.

If that mediation thing doesn’t work:

Show no mercy! Take no prisoners! Use your children as clubs against your wife. Destroy them and Burn all their property! And then rut with prostitues over their graves!

Or not. Whatever.

I did everything myself and have no regrets.

I knew going into it that being amicable would mean giving her some stuff that I didn’t really think was fair, just to get it over and done with.

Still, the mediation thing sounds like a wise route.

Both my wife and I are on our second marriages. She did everything herself, I hired a lawyer. She got the better deal.

If you decide to hire a lawyer and you don’t like his/her advice, get a second opinion. My lawyer told me things that I found out later weren’t true. (Like I probably could have gotten custody of the kids if I had tried, he told me it was almost impossible).

Anyway, If you decide to try to do it without a lawyer, you have to discuss it with her and decide who gets what. The most important thing is going to be the house. If she lets you have the house is she going to want more of the material assets to compensate?

You may have to do a joint custody thing with the cats. I have a friend who broke up with her boyfriend of 10 years and now they pass the dogs back and forth.

As for alimony, there is no law saying she has to get it. It’s based on both your incomes. If they are relatively equal then there’s a good chance she won’t get it anyway.

I had a Dissolution of Marriage, which is cheaper than a divorce and sounds perfect for your situation. When you both agree on how things should be divided up (and we even agreed on the kids) you just file papers with the court, show up and talk to a judge and it’s done. We hired a lawyer just to do all the paperwork, because the requirements for staple placement were outrageous. We had one meeting with the lawyer (technically mine, though he paid for it) where we discussed how we would divide up the bills and the cars, and he was told how much child support would be and so forth. Then one required class on “How To Help The Kids” and then the meeting in the judge’s office where we told him why we broke up, why we couldn’t fix it, and whether we were in agreement about the division of property. We drove there together, held hands through the whole thing, then it was over, and we went to brunch together. Talk about amicable. After which I drove to a jeweler and had my rings cut off.

I did it without a lawyer, mediator, or therapist and it worked just fine. Both me and the ex agreed that we’d rather give stuff to each other than a lawyer, and we kept that in mind. Also, it helped that neither of us really went after anything that would really piss the other off - I, for example, didn’t decide that I suddenly wanted the furniture that his elderly grandmother gave him in her will. If I had, things would have gotten ugly fast.

What we did was made a spreadsheet with all of our mutual assets on it, with a value for each. The car (we had one) was marked down at current market value minus what we owed, as were homes (we had 2 at the time). Other big things were included, like 401Ks, the freezer in the garage, etc.

Once we had everything down, we added it up, and came up with a total net worth kinda thing. We split it in half, and then divied things up accordingly. It wasn’t too hard, if one of us said “I really want such-and-such” the other pretty much let them have it, and picked other things of equal value to make up for it.

We had no children, so that wasn’t an issue.

Other than that, we just had to file a paper at the courthouse saying “we’re not married anymore.” Think the total divorce cost us about $100.00. Was not a big deal.

I have a completely different piece of advice.

Whatever you do, do it. If she is moving now, move with her. Don’t drag your feet. Return paperwork promptly. Do what you need to do so her good feeling towards you remain good and not “good riddence to that guy who can’t even get that peice of paper signed and notorized.”

I don’t have advice on hiring an attorney or mediator or going it alone.

Thanks for all the thoughtful replies. I’m leaning towards mediation, but first I’m going to write down on paper my goals and expectations from the divorce, then talk to my wife about how to move forward.

We’ll see, I’ll probably be back for more recommendations, but don’t hesitate to post more if anyone has any other advice to give