Process Options

Process Options Available To Terminate A Marriage

There are a number of different ways to go about terminating a marriage. In Florida, the two most common legal approaches are divorce and dissolution of marriage.

Dissolution of Marriage

A Dissolution of marriage is the termination of the marriage by the Judge or by the parties written agreement. When the couple enters into a Marital Settlement Agreement which details their agreement regarding parenting issues, parenting support issues, the division of assets and liabilities, and spousal support they are keeping it out of the Judge’s hands and keeping all control in their hands. It the parents agree to Shared Parenting, a Shared Parenting Plan is also executed. After the parties each file the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and Separation Agreement, a brief hearing is held before a Judge. At that time, the parties affirm the Separation Agreement.

The Separation Agreement terms are reached through negotiation. It is always better if you can reach a negotiated settlement. A negotiated settlement insures that both you and your spouse are in control of the reconfiguration of your financial future. It also insures that the two of you, and not a court official, are making decisions concerning future parenting issues. A negotiated settlement can be done at your own pace and with maximum privacy. A couple can use a number of different process options to reach an agreements. These options include “the kitchen table”, mediation, Collaborative Family Law, and lawyer negotiation.

1. The Kitchen Table

Some couples are able to sit down “at the kitchen table” to sort through their issues and reach agreements. It is advisable for both to have had had prior consultations with lawyers so that they each have some understanding of the nature of their rights and obligations. This process tends to work well in very uncomplicated cases. Where couples are dividing up pension plans or there are complex legal issues, there may be difficulty with this approach. For some, it may be possible, to the resolve some issues at “the kitchen table”, although not all.

This type of negotiation can be problematic where one spouse feels less powerful than the other and may feel coerced into an agreement.

2. Mediation

In a mediated case, a couple meets with a mediator who serves as a third-party neutral. The mediator can be an attorney or mental health professional. It is recommended that the Husband and Wife each have attorneys who can provide advice and counsel during the time the couple is in mediation. In most situations, the attorneys are not present in the mediation sessions, although they can be at the discretion of the mediator and/or Husband or Wife. The mediator uses a structured problem solving process to assist the couple in reaching an agreement. The mediator does not give legal advice nor does he or she serve as a decision-maker for the couple. In Ohio, the mediator does not draft the final documents required by the court or take the case through the court system.

3. Collaborative Family Law

In a Collaborative Family Law case, a Husband and Wife each retain attorneys who have received special training in the principles of win/win (interest based) negotiation and collaborative strategies. There is a shared negotiation choreography. Much of the process takes place in four-way meetings that are structured to promote an exchange of ideas and interests that ultimately allow the couple to create options for the settlement of the case. The environment allows for structured problem-solving and improved communication between the parties. In some cases, trained mental health professionals and financial planners provide input and assistance in the process. At the inception of the process, both clients and lawyers sign a contract that the lawyers will not litigate in the event of impasse. If the case reaches impasse and all settlement options are exhausted, both parties must retain other counsel to litigate. At its essence: A commitment to a principled, negotiated settlement, following established protocols and an established choreography without the threat or use of court action. For more information about Collaborative Family Law go to

4. Lawyer Negotiation

Lawyers create and circulate proposals.

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