Legal forms included

Divorce Without Court

A Guide to Mediation & Collaborative Divorce

Avoid the expense and stress of divorce court

Get essential information on how to end a marriage fairly and inexpensively, using divorce mediation or collaborative divorce. Encouraging and straightforward, Divorce Without Court guides you through a negotiated divorce, explaining how to:

  • maximize opportunities for settlement
  • get an agreement in writing
  • find and work with lawyers and other advisors.

Includes useful checklists and worksheets.

See below for a full product description.


Available as part of Nolo's Divorce Bundle

  • Product Details
  • Ending a marriage is always difficult, but you don’t have to be financially or emotionally overwhelmed. Through mediation or a collaborative divorce, you can avoid huge legal bills and debilitating conflict with your ex.

    This book guides you through all the steps of negotiating a divorce settlement, using mediation or collaborative law.

    Encouraging, straightforward, and inspiring, Divorce Without Court explains mediation and collaborative divorce and shows you how to:

    • choose the right approach for your family
    • maximize opportunities for settlement
    • get an agreement in writing
    • find mediators, attorneys, and advisers, and
    • protect your children first, last, and always.

    Divorce Without Court provides information about mediation organizations, and clear examples of what you can expect in mediation or collaborative divorce.

    “Finally—a realistic and balanced approach to getting divorced without costly court battles. This accessible book takes divorcing couples through the entire process. ”—Gary Friedman, author of A Guide to Divorce Mediation

    “A person considering divorce could not have a more valuable resource than Divorce Without Court.”—Chip Rose, author of Collaborative Family Law Practice


    Number of Pages
    Included Forms

    This book comes with these worksheets, checklists, and other forms:

    • Are You Good Candidates for Mediation or Collaboration?
    • Where to Look for Potential Mediators
    • Questions for Potential Mediators
    • Where to Look for Potential Collaborative Attorneys
    • Questions for Potential Collaborative Attorneys
    • Questions for Potential Consulting Lawyers
    • Notes of Consultation with Adviser
    • Assessing Your Children’s Needs Worksheet
    • Useful Documents in Mediation and Collaboration
    • Assets Worksheet
    • Debts Worksheet
    • Income Worksheet
    • First Mediation Session Worksheet
    • Mediation or Collaboration Progress Notes Worksheet
    • Common Disruptive Tactics and How to Respond
    • Bargaining Dos and Don’ts Checklist
    • Inventory of Personal Negotiation Skills
    • Negotiation Notes
    • Essential Principles of Negotiation Checklist
    • Sample Agreement to Mediate
  • About the Author
    • Katherine Stoner

      Katherine E. Stoner is an attorney and superior court commissioner in Monterey County, California. Prior to that, she was a certified family law specialist, focusing on family law and mediation. Katherine is a founding member of Collaborative Practice of Monterey County. She is the author of Divorce Without Court: A Guide to Mediation & Collaborative Divorce (Nolo) and Prenuptial Agreements: How to Write a Fair & Lasting Contract (Nolo). Katherine has been a trainer at the Center for Mediation in Law in Marin County, California, and is an adjunct faculty member at Monterey College of Law, where she teaches community property, family law, and mediation.

  • Table of Contents
  • I. Introduction—Divorce Without Court: Your Best Option

    • What Exactly Are Mediation and Collaboration?
    • Why Mediate or Collaborate? Consider the Alternative
    • Divorce Decision Spectrum
    • Mediation or Collaboration: Still a Better Option for Divorcing LGBTQA Couples
    • You've Decided to Mediate or Collaborate: When Do You Start?
    • Divorce Law in Your State: How to Get Accurate Information
    • Getting the Most Out of This Book

    1. The Role of Mediation and Collaborative Law in the Divorce Process

    • The Four Divorces
    • Keeping It Simple: The Uncontested Divorce
    • Beyond the Basics: The Contested Divorce
    • Long-Term Effects of a Contested Legal Divorce
    • Mediation and Collaboration: A Different Way to Divorce

    2. What Happens in Mediation

    • An Overview of Mediation
    • Introductory Stage
    • Information-Gathering Stage
    • Framing Stage
    • Negotiating Stage
    • Concluding Stage
    • Assessing the Cost of Robert and Fran’s Mediation

    3. What Happens in a Collaborative Divorce

    • An Overview of Collaborative Divorce
    • Introductory Stage
    • Information-Gathering Stage
    • Framing Stage
    • Negotiating Stage
    • Concluding Stage
    • Assessing the Cost of Cole and Traci’s Collaborative Divorce
    • Traci and Cole’s Divorce Agreement

    4. Deciding to Mediate or Collaborate

    • Is Mediation or Collaboration Right for You?
    • It Takes Agreement of Both Spouses
    • Comparing Mediation and Collaborative Divorce
    • Making Your Choice Between Mediation and Collaboration

    5. Proposing Mediation or Collaboration to Your Spouse

    • When to Propose Mediation or Collaborative Divorce
    • Who Should Propose Mediation or Collaboration?
    • How to Propose Mediation or Collaborative Divorce
    • Dos and Don’ts of Proposing Mediation or Collaboration
    • Sample Letter Proposing Mediation
    • Sample Letter Proposing Collaborative Divorce

    6. Finding a Mediator

    • Do You Need a Local Mediator or Can You Mediate Remotely?
    • Finding the Right Mediator
    • Qualified Mediators: What to Look For
    • Finding the Right Fit
    • Who Provides Mediation Services
    • Screening and Interviewing Potential Mediators
    • Interviewing and Selecting a Mediator

    7. Finding a Collaborative Attorney

    • Finding the Right Collaborative Attorney
    • Qualified Attorneys: What to Look For
    • Finding the Right Fit
    • Screening and Interviewing Potential Lawyers
    • Interviewing and Selecting a Collaborative Lawyer

    8. Using Advisers and Doing Legal Research

    • How and When to Use Advisers in Mediation or Collaboration
    • The Role of Family and Friends in Your Divorce
    • Legal Adviser (For Advice During Mediation)
    • Counselor
    • Financial Adviser
    • Specialized Advisers
    • Coordinating Your Advisers
    • Finding Answers to Legal Questions: Legal Research Online and Off

    9. Getting Started on Information-Gathering

    • Step One: Remember Vital Statistics
    • Step Two: Assess Your Children’s Needs
    • Step Three: Locate and Scan or Copy Important Documents
    • Step Four: Inventory Your Assets and Debts
    • Step Five: Summarize Your Income and Make a Budget
    • Step Six: Pause to Reflect

    10. Preparing for and Making the Most of the First Session

    • Getting Ready
    • Mediator Approaches and Styles
    • Mediator Neutrality and Bias
    • Confidentiality of the Mediation
    • Agreement to Mediate
    • Take Time to Make Notes

    11. Evaluating Your Progress in Mediation or Collaborative Divorce

    • Evaluating the Decision to Mediate
    • Evaluating the Decision to Use Collaborative Divorce
    • Monitoring Your Progress in Mediation or Collaboration

    12. Communicating in Mediation or Collaborative Divorce

    • What Is Communication?
    • What Can Go Wrong in Communications?
    • Tips for Good Communication
    • Tips for Communicating About Problems
    • Handling Strong Emotions in Communication

    13. Negotiating in Mediation and Collaborative Divorce

    • We Negotiate All the Time
    • What Makes for a Successful Negotiation?
    • Prepare for the Negotiation
    • Negotiate Clearly, Firmly, and Respectfully

    14. Court-Sponsored Mediation

    • Types of Court-Sponsored Mediation Programs
    • How Court-Sponsored Mediation Works
    • Voluntary Mediation: To Try or Not?
    • Mandatory Mediation: Opting Out
    • If You Can’t Opt Out of Mandatory Mediation
    • Preparing for Court-Sponsored Mediation
    • Attending the Mediation Session
    • After the Mediation Session

    15. Encountering Difficulties in Mediation and Collaboration

    • Four-Step Approach to Dealing With Difficulties
    • Discrepancies Between the Advice or Timetable in This Book and Your Experience
    • Delays and Disconnects
    • Tantrums and Other “Bad” Behavior
    • Extreme Discomfort in Mediation
    • Impasse: Negotiation Hits a Brick Wall
    • Last-Minute Changes and Demands
    • Dealing With Persistent Problems
    • Leaving Mediation or Collaboration Without Burning Your Bridges
    • Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

    16. Writing Up the Divorce Agreement

    • Interim or Temporary Agreements
    • Partial Agreements
    • Why Put Interim and Partial Agreements in Writing?
    • Writing Up the Final Divorce Agreement and Finalizing Your Divorce

    17. Women and Men in Mediation and Collaborative Divorce

    • Common Gender-Related Obstacles
    • Historical Background
    • Gender and Mandatory Mediation
    • Gender and Voluntary Mediation

    18. Unmarried Couples in Mediation and Collaboration

    • Untying the Nonmarital Knot: Opportunities and Pitfalls
    • Successful Mediation or Collaborative Separation

    19. Mediation and Collaboration After Divorce

    • Dealing With Changes in the Divorce Agreement
    • If You Decide to Mediate
    • If You Decide to Collaborate
    • Negotiating New Relationship Issues


    How to Use the Downloadable Forms on the Nolo Website

    • Editing RTFs
    • List of Forms Available on the Nolo Website
    • Attitional Notes on Editing the Downloadable forms in Divorce Without Court


  • Sample Chapter
  • Introduction

    Divorce Without Court: Your Best Option

    It’s happened. The thing you thought would never happen to your marriage. You and your spouse are divorcing. Your friends tell you, “You need protection. Get yourself a good lawyer.” You call a lawyer who has been highly recommended. The lawyer wants a $5,000 retainer, payable at the time of the first appointment.

    You consider doing your own divorce. You go online and look for help. The forms and procedures seem overwhelming. Every time you and your spouse try to talk about how you will divide things up, who will have custody of the children, and how much child support will be paid, you end up arguing without getting anywhere.

    Even if you and your spouse can agree on everything, you’re afraid you might overlook something. You want some help with the divorce, but you can’t afford the huge retainers that lawyers charge. What’s more, you’re afraid of starting your own personal version of World War III by getting lawyers involved.

    If you find yourself in this situation, you will benefit from reading this book. We describe how you can get as much help as you need for the divorce—at a price you can afford—by using a neutral professional known as a “mediator,” or by seeking out lawyers who offer a different approach to resolving the issues in divorce cases, called “collaborative law” or “collaborative divorce.” A mediator or two collaborative lawyers (one for each of you) can help you and your spouse reach a complete agreement that will settle your divorce case without a costly legal battle. A mediator doesn’t impose a decision on you. Nor do your collaborative lawyers decide for you. The two of you decide what’s best for you, with their help.

    What Exactly Are Mediation and Collaboration?

    Of course, there is no such thing as divorce without court. To be divorced you need a court decree at the very least. But short of doing all the work leading up to the decree yourself, mediation and collaboration come about as close as can be to divorce without court.

    What Is Mediation?

    In mediation, a trained neutral third party (not necessarily, but ideally a lawyer) helps you and your spouse negotiate a complete settlement of all the issues that must be decided in your divorce—from the legal and financial to the social and emotional. The mediator doesn’t decide for you, so you have control over the outcome of the case. In mediation, you and your spouse communicate directly, or sometimes through the mediator. Doing so cuts down on the chances of a misunderstanding.

    Mediation is informal. You and your spouse, with the mediator’s help, set all the ground rules for exchanging information. You control the timing and the scope of the entire process, without having to adhere to elaborate (and expensive) legal procedures. Mediation usually takes much less time and is usually much less expensive than litigation. It can even take place all in one day, although most divorcing couples meet for several sessions on separate days over a period of days, weeks, or months.

    What Is Collaborative Divorce?

    Like mediation, collaborative divorce (also called “collaborative law” or “collaborative practice”) is a process in which you and your spouse negotiate an acceptable agreement with professional help. Instead of using one neutral mediator, you and your spouse each hire a specially trained collaborative attorney who advises and assists you in negotiating the settlement agreement. You each meet separately with your own attorney and the four of you meet together on a regular basis, in “four-way” meetings. Collaborative divorce involves more professionals than mediation. Therefore, it is likely to cost more than mediation, although probably less than litigation. Like mediators, collaborative lawyers need to be skilled in communicating effectively and accurately.

    Ordinarily, each spouse and their attorneys sign a “no-court” agreement that requires the attorneys to withdraw from the case if a settlement isn’t reached and the case goes to court.

    Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer or Other Professionals?

    In both mediation and collaboration, you might want help from other professionals, such as child custody specialists and financial analysts. If you mediate, you might seek advice from a divorce lawyer known as a “consulting attorney.”

    No matter how many people get involved, you—not your advisers—are in control of the process. They are there to help you successfully mediate or collaboratively negotiate your case. The mediator or the collaborative lawyers help you keep any other advisers on track so things don’t spin out of control.

    How Does Mediation or Collaboration Fit Into the Legal Divorce?

    Eventually, you will get a court order saying you are legally divorced. This means you will need to have some contact with a domestic relations or family court. Through mediation or collaboration, you can keep that contact brief and manageable. Once you use mediation or collaboration to reach agreement on all the issues, you’ll make the legal part of the divorce a simple, uncontested procedure that doesn’t require a trial with contentious hearings on points of evidence and pretrial maneuvers.

    Are You and Your Spouse Suited for Mediation or Collaboration?
    Alas, mediation doesn’t work for everyone. Nor does collaborative divorce. Some people conclude that the assistance and advocacy of an adversarial lawyer is needed, despite the cost and emotional toll of a contested case. If you are unsure about whether mediation or collaboration is right for you, check out Chapter 4, “Deciding to Mediate or Collaborate.” There you will find a short self-test you can complete, to see if your circumstances favor a nonadversarial approach like mediation or collaboration.

    Why Mediate or Collaborate? Consider the Alternative

    A divorce that doesn’t settle will eventually end up in a contested divorce case, known as “litigation.” Litigation is by definition adversarial. Feelings are running high, because the parties have decided to oppose each other on almost every important issue. In litigation, the lawyers face off in the courtroom before a judge and maybe a jury—although juries are rarely involved in divorce cases. At the end of the case, the judge considers every- thing that has been presented and decides the outcome. Sometimes there is a clear “winner.” Sometimes each side feels like they’ve lost. Often, no one feels that justice has been done—mainly because the result has been dictated by laws that seem fair to no one. And, to add insult to injury, when the dust settles both sides realize that whatever money or property they were fighting over has been depleted by legal fees.

    Litigation is extremely expensive because of the hours spent by the lawyers in assembling information, investigating, and preparing for trial— in addition to the time spent in trial—which can be days, weeks, or even months. Litigation is also very time-consuming and emotionally draining for the parties in the lawsuit.

    Litigation is a terrible way to make the personal decisions that a divorce entails—decisions that will affect you, your spouse, and your children for a long time to come. But litigation is the way those decisions will be made if you and your spouse can’t come up with an agreement. When you litigate your divorce, your spouse becomes your intimate enemy. Your adversarial lawyer will probably advise you not to talk to your spouse directly about the issues, but to communicate through your lawyer. Not only is this expensive, but it can lead to serious misunderstandings that further erode trust and respect between you and your spouse. And imagine what harm it can do to your children.

    Ellen and Joe’s story, below, provides a real-world example of how misunderstandings can spin out of control. Unfortunately, Ellen and Joe’s scenario, or some form of it, is played out in countless divorces across the country every year. Even though most divorce cases settle before an actual court trial, many divorcing couples experience the embittering effects that litigation tends to produce. Minor misunderstandings that could have been cleared up with a direct conversation, like the change of address snafu in Joe and Ellen’s case, instead ignite major conflagrations.

    Fortunately, there are alternatives to adversarial divorce litigation. For most people, the best of those alternatives is either mediation or collaborative divorce, or sometimes a combination of the two.

    Ellen and Joe: from bad to worse. Ellen and Joe are getting divorced after 15 years of marriage. Their breakup hasn’t always been easy, but they both want to be fair in the divorce. Following advice of their relatives and friends, each has hired a lawyer to handle the divorce case. Getting divorced is bad enough, but when they stop talking and hire adversarial lawyers, things get worse.

    Ellen and Joe have several mutual funds and other investments that are managed by a financial planning firm called XYZ Company. When Joe moves out of the house that he and Ellen have been living in, he calls the broker at XYZ Company and leaves a message letting the broker know his new address. The broker’s assistant takes the message and puts in for a change of address on all of the investments jointly owned by Ellen and Joe. Joe is unaware that this has been done.

    A month or so goes by and Ellen realizes that she hasn’t received statements for the investments. She calls XYZ Company and is informed that Joe changed the mailing address on all the accounts the previous month. Ellen’s first impulse upon learning this is to call Joe and demand an explanation. If she did so, she would learn that this wasn’t something Joe intended, and the problem would be cleared up.

    Instead, following her lawyer’s advice, Ellen contacts her lawyer, instead of Joe. Ellen’s lawyer tells her she needs an immediate court order requiring that the addresses be reinstated and preventing Joe from taking similar actions in the future. The lawyer also recommends a court order freezing all investments and bank accounts. The lawyer fires off a letter to Joe’s lawyer and proceeds to file a motion (written request) with the court. Joe’s lawyer responds to Ellen’s demands with counterattacks and demands on behalf of Joe. Soon, what could have been a civil and respectful end to the marriage has mushroomed into an antagonistic and expensive court battle.

    Divorce Decision Spectrum

    Legal experts often put mediation or collaboration into a category generally referred to as “alternative dispute resolution,” or “ADR,” because they’re alternatives to adversarial litigation. The assumption is that there is a dispute that must be resolved, rather than decisions that have to be made.

    For most divorcing couples, this assumption is incorrect.

    It’s true that divorcing spouses have many decisions to make, and they might have different points of view on those decisions. But this doesn’t mean that they have an actual dispute that has to be resolved. They might simply need help making the decisions together. Often, the questions are just how much and what kind of help they need. If you step away from the adversarial assumptions, you can see that you and your spouse can make the decisions you need to make in different ways. Those different ways line up on a spectrum (sliding scale) like this:

    Divorce Decision Spectrum

    Most Control
    Least Expense


    Least Control
    More Expense

    Do your own divorce Mediation
    (one neutral person assists you to reach a decision)
    (collaborative lawyers help you decide)
    (lawyers negotiate—see Chapter 8)
    (neutral third person decides)

    As you can see, you retain the most control and spend the least money if you and your spouse do your own divorce from beginning to end. At the other extreme, where you have the least control and spend the most money, is adversarial litigation. In between are several options.

    Unless you and your spouse feel completely comfortable with your ability to negotiate everything yourselves and do all your own paperwork for the divorce, you will probably want some professional help. Mediation or collaboration is the next-best option on the continuum. It provides the help you need while keeping costs down and letting you stay in control of what happens.

    Mediation or Collaboration: Still a Better Option for Divorcing LGBTQA Couples

    Dispute resolution rather than litigation is almost always the better choice for LGBTQA couples, just as it is with traditional couples. Additional reasons support this choice, too.


    Identifying as LGBTQA has gotten easier with changing attitudes, but that doesn’t mean prejudice is nonexistent. Depending on your circumstances, getting divorced in the public courts might involve coming out in ways that you don’t want. Of course, in order to be divorced, you will still have to get a divorce decree, and that is usually a public record. But if everything is settled out of court, you will be a footnote in the courthouse files as opposed to having your case argued in crowded dockets over the course of the six months or more that it takes to resolve the issues through the courts.

    Supportive Professionals

    If you take your case to court, you can’t pick your judge or any of the court staff handling your case, including child custody investigators or evaluators. And your choice of an attorney could be limited to attorneys practicing before the court where your residence is located. So you could be stuck dealing with professionals who might be insensitive to your needs and concerns, if not downright hostile.

    In contrast, if you and your spouse mediate, you can try to select a supportive mediator and consulting lawyers or other advisers to help you negotiate your settlement. Similarly, if you choose to take a collaborative approach, you can look for attorneys or other collaborative team members who will contribute positively to your settlement.

    Customized Solutions

    A court-ordered divorce decree will, to some extent, mirror traditional marital and gender roles, because it will be based on divorce laws built around those norms. In an LGBTQA divorce, however, those norms don’t always apply. A major advantage of mediation and collaboration for every divorcing couple—especially an LGBTQA couple—is the potential for outside-the-box thinking in coming up with a settlement. Mediation and collaboration allow you to create a customized settlement that takes your unique relationship into account.

    Simply a Better Option

    Neither mediation nor collaboration will guarantee a stress-free divorce for any divorcing couple. These nonadversarial options won’t eliminate the stress and pain of a breakup, but they can make the process a little smoother and less costly, both emotionally and financially. If you think the two of you can—with help—work toward a settlement you both can live with, then no matter what the outcome, you are likely to be better off at the end of it than if you hadn’t tried.

    You’ve Decided to Mediate or Collaborate: When Do You Start?

    Suppose you and your spouse want to mediate your divorce agreement or use a collaborative process. Should you file for divorce first? The same answer doesn’t work for everyone. If you are collaborating, your lawyers can help you analyze the pros and cons of filing now or waiting. If you are going to mediate, here are some considerations to keep in mind.

    One of the great things about mediation is its flexibility. Except for court- mandated mediation, it is a private, voluntary process, and you can pick the timing that works for you. In most cases, it is best not to get started with a court case until you have eliminated the potential for a court fight by signing an agreement settling all the issues. That way, the divorce case is simplest and least expensive, because it begins and ends as an uncontested case.

    But sometimes you’ll have a reason to get the clock running on a divorce waiting period, or maybe you have already started a divorce proceeding before deciding to mediate. If so, mediation can still work quite well. Just make sure to work with each other (and your consulting lawyers, if you have them) to put the divorce case “on hold” while you negotiate an agreement in mediation.

    Divorce Law in Your State: How to Get Accurate Information

    If you mediate or collaborate, your mediator or collaborative lawyer will help you understand your legal rights and how divorce laws work in your state. But if you are like most folks, you will be anxious to know the basics before you start. The trick is to get solid information that isn’t misleading or slanted by an adversarial perspective. Here are some suggestions.

    Get an Overview of Your State’s Divorce Rules and Procedures

    Divorce rules and procedures vary by state, including what the legal grounds are for divorce, residency requirements, how property is divided, and how child support and custody decisions are made. For a good overview of these issues, check out the “Divorce Basics” section for your state on This site provides a wealth of free state-specific information on divorce, from child custody and child support to property division to alimony and more. You can also do your own legal research, after consulting Chapter 8 of this book.

    You’ll also find a lot of useful information on state divorce laws, forms, and resources by doing an online search for your state’s court website. The websites often include information on court-sponsored mediation (a topic discussed at length in Chapter 14). Some courts have established self-help centers staffed by paralegals or attorneys who can answer basic questions about divorce laws and procedures. Check with your court to see if that is an option.

    Finally, for an extensive guide to the divorce process, check out Nolo’s Essential Guide to Divorce, by Emily Doskow. This comprehensive book covers everything from the different types of separation and kinds of divorce to the details of contested divorces and trials.

    Consult With a Family Law Attorney

    In addition to doing your own legal research, it is a good idea to find a family law practitioner who supports mediation and collaborative divorce and who can explain divorce law in your state, and your basic rights when it comes to property, custody, alimony, and the like. (See “Finding and Using a Consulting Lawyer” in Chapter 2 and the “Legal Adviser” section in Chapter 8 for details.)

    Getting the Most Out of This Book

    The first four chapters are must reading for everyone, and will help you use this book most effectively. Then, depending on your situation, the remaining chapters will help you go through the mediation or collaborative process step by step.

    Here’s a brief overview of what you’ll find where (see the table of contents for more detail):

    • how mediation or collaboration fit into the uncontested divorce, from filing the initial court papers to getting the judge’s signature on the divorce decree (Chapter 1)
    • how to decide whether and when to mediate or use a collaborative process (Chapters 2 through 4)
    • how to get your spouse to agree to mediate or collaborate (Chapter 5) finding the right mediator or collaborative lawyer for your situation (Chapters 6 and 7), and
    • preparing for mediation or collaborative divorce (Chapters 9 and 10).

    By carefully reading this book, you’ll learn how to:

    • select and work with lawyers, accountants, and other advisers while you are going through the process (Chapter 8)
    • communicate and negotiate effectively in mediation or collaboration (Chapters 12 and 13)
    • deal with problems that arise (Chapter 15), and
    • write up your divorce (separation or marital settlement) agreement in a binding and legally enforceable agreement (Chapter 16).

    To illustrate several of the points in this book, we’ll introduce you to several fictional couples, such as Joe and Ellen in this chapter (an example of costly adversarial litigation), and Robert and Fran in Chapter 2 (an insider’s view of a typical divorce mediation).

    Key Terms Used in This Book

    We use certain terms throughout this book that have specific meanings, which we define when they come up. But we use a few terms so often that it makes sense to define them now.

    Marriage. When we use this term, we are usually referring not only to the legal relationship called “marriage” that is recognized in your state, but also to any civil union or domestic partnership that is recognized in your state. Just which relationships are recognized in which states is changing all the time (see Chapter 17 for details).

    Spouse. We use this term rather than “husband” or “wife” because it can refer to any gender.

    Divorce. This refers to the legal process of ending a marriage, although the technical legal word for divorce in your state might be different, such as “dissolution of marriage.”

    Unmarried couple. If you are ending a nonmarital relationship (whether an opposite-sex or LGBTQA couple), you won’t follow the same legal process for ending a marriage. Many unmarried couples find mediation or collaboration a useful way to end their relationship, and deal with such issues as child custody or division of property, as well as emotional and social issues. (See Chapter 18 for details.)

    Finally, we provide useful worksheets and forms to help you find the right mediator or collaborative attorney, organize your financial information, work on developing a plan for custody and time-sharing, and more.

    Let your mediator or collaborative lawyer be your guide. We’ve tried to cover the major issues that might arise in mediation or collaboration. But if your mediator or your lawyer tells you something inconsistent with what we’re saying here, and if it sounds reasonable in the context of what you are going through, feel free to ignore our suggestions and go with what your mediator or lawyer tells you.

    We hope you enjoyed this sample chapter. The complete book is available for sale here at

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    DOWNLOAD FORMS: The forms in this book are accessible online. After purchase, you can find a link to the URL in the Appendix.

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