First of all, there are two types of marriage divorce ? absolute and limited. An absolute divorce, (also called a "divorce a vinculo matrimonii") is a judicial termination of a marriage based on marital misconduct, or other statutory cause arising after the marriage ceremony. As a result of an absolute divorce, both parties' status becomes single again.
The consequences of a limited divorce, in other words "divorce a mensa et thoro", or marriage separation vary from state to state. Typically, a limited divorce is commonly referred to as a marriage separation decree; the right to cohabitation is terminated but the marriage is undissolved, and the status of the parties is not altered. So decide what type of marriage divorce suits best your needs.
Secondly, divorce needs time, some cases seem to last forever. So it is very important to protect yourself and have all the necessary issues, settled between you and your spouse, agreed to in writing. The best way to follow during this indefinite period of time is to issue a Marital Separation and Settlement Agreement, which will solve such issues as property and debt division, spousal support, child custody, visitation, child support, insurance coverage. An agreement typically consists of over 30 essential issues. It must be in writing, signed by husband and wife, and notarized. Some people choose to draft an agreement by themselves, but it is better to have it done by an experienced attorney. Frequently, people who draft these agreements on their own, without an attorney, neglect to divide assets, such as pension benefits or make other costly mistakes. You should evaluate the cost of the attorney against the cost of making a mistake in the agreement and determine whether you should have an attorney do the work for you. Please keep in mind that drafting a Marital Separation & Property Settlement Agreement does not mean you must get a divorce.
The next thing you should bear in mind about divorce is what way to choose for getting a marriage divorce: settlement or trial. In most states, if the case is settled, the parties generally agree that the divorce will be awarded on grounds of irreconcilable differences. Even if there is an agreement, most states have a waiting period. If the parties cannot agree on the settlement, there will be a trial.
Moreover, there is a range of professional help in a divorce. You may follow one of the ways listed below.
Mediation. The mediator is a trained neutral (usually a lawyer, mental health professional, or accountant), who helps the spouses negotiate an agreement directly between themselves, usually without built-in attorney participation. Independent attorneys advise each spouse, outside the mediation process.
"Unbundling". The spouses, together or separately, act in effect as "general contractors," handling some parts of the divorce "in propria persona," bringing in lawyers, mediators, accountants, and other professional advisors, only when needed.
Collaborative Law. A new, highly-effective process, in which each spouse hires a family lawyer committed to devising creative "win-win" agreements. Binding commitments good-faith negotiating, full disclosure, acknowledgment of the needs of the other party, protection of the children, and avoidance of court proceedings are made by all participants. Other professionals, e.g. accountants, child development specialists, appraisers, etc., are retained jointly and work as neutrals.
Conventional settlement. The traditional process, whereby each spouse selects an attorney who advises, investigates, prepares for trial, and at some point - whether early in the case, or the courthouse steps - brings the case to resolution by settlement. The process can range from amicable to highly adversarial, and can be costly or inexpensive, speedy or slow, depending on both the attorneys and the spouses.
Finally, remember that the result of a divorce will depend upon many factors, including but not limited to the skills of the lawyers, the judge; which party is more angry; what known assets and debts exist; what unknown assets and debt exist; separate property brought into the marriage; the parties' relative earnings; and the education, age, and number of children, as well as their stage of development. There are many other factors, and there are never any guarantees. In most situations, cash will be the most important asset, because most people do little financial planning for divorce.