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Three elements of the divorce process

It goes without saying that divorce is complicated. The experience can lead to back-and-forth courtroom bickering, bitter disputes over assets, and volatile battles that extend far beyond a judge's legal ability to end with a ruling. The process can take as much time to prepare for as it does to complete. However, there are ways to make the process as amicable, expedient and stress-free as possible.

Preparation. Regardless of which spouse files for divorce, each person needs to prepare for his or her own case. Individuals should gather all documents, especially those that are financially related, and have a copy of joint documents ready to submit. This will speed up the process and minimize potential discrepancies.

Each person should also hire their own lawyer, even if they have decided to settle through mediation. Trying to use a lawyer that has previously worked with both spouses will create a conflict of interest.

If possible, it may be helpful to have a conversation before the start of the divorce process to determine if there are issues and matters that can be resolved outside of court, through mediation or through legally binding agreements.

The process. Many people want to know at the start of a divorce how long the entire process will take.

This is a difficult question to answer, considering that each case is different and involves different assets and issues. After the initial filing, it could take multiple visits to the court or mediation and longer for a divorce to be finalized if there are minor children, a business or no prenuptial agreement involved.

Divorce court doesn't normally decide child custody cases, but it isn't always necessary for these cases to appear before a judge. Mediation can be used for child custody. In fact, mediation can be used to determine finances, inheritances and other assets. This could shorten the process considerably.

Mediation. While mediation is a great way to resolve a divorce amicably and in a timely manner, verbal agreements simply are not enough. Any decisions made should be accompanied by legal documentation. Regardless of how amicable the settlement is, lawyers are allowed and often recommended to be present. Mediation isn't ideal for those who are divorcing as a result of domestic violence.

Whether a divorce is amicable, the length of time it takes, and how stressful it is all depends on the couple's relationship, the causes of the divorce, and assets and children involved. The first step when pursuing a divorce is to speak with an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through your options and help you understand what you might expect.

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