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What Is a Civil Divorce? Tips for a Peaceful Divorce

Divorces are never fun. But they also don't have to be a nasty battle that leaves both you and your spouse with scars from the fight. If at all possible, see if you and your spouse can engage in what is known as a civil divorce, also called a collaborative divorce.

A civil divorce follows collaborative law. You and your spouse will be represented by collaborative lawyers, and both you and the attorneys will agree to make decisions outside of a court of law. You will share information and come to an agreement on important issues such as alimony and child custody.

What Is the Process for a Civil or Collaborative Divorce?

To begin a civil, or collaborative, divorce, you and your spouse-as well as your lawyers-sign an agreement that typically states the following:

  • All parties will do their best to agree on the specifics of the divorce so that the matter will not have to go to court
  • All parties will openly share their information and act ethically
  • All parties will agree on any experts who need to be hired to help finalize the divorce

After this agreement is signed, you and your spouse must identify the property and financial assets you have, as well as any debt, so you can decide on how it all will be divided. You'll have to prove what you say in this matter with appropriate documents. You'll do the same for any other issues to be resolved during this collaborative divorce process.

You, your spouse and your collaborative attorneys will meet for joint sessions (also called four-way conferences) to try to resolve the issues. When you all are in agreement on each issue, the attorneys can draw up legal documents and submit them to the court. After the court approves the documents, your divorce is final.

Is a Civil Divorce Really Possible?

In many cases, the answer to this question is yes. If you and your spouse, as well as the divorce lawyers representing each of you, are willing to compromise and do what is best for all involved, you'll likely reach a satisfying conclusion.

In some instances, however, the parties simply cannot agree. If that happens, you will need to hire a divorce attorney-someone different from your collaborative lawyer-and take the matter to court.


If you're unsure whether to pursue a civil divorce under collaborative law, consider the following benefits.  You stand to save time and money, and you'll avoid much of the stress typically associated with a court battle. If you're still undecided, consult with an attorney to see if he or she thinks you and your spouse are capable of undertaking a civil divorce.