What is Considered an Amicable Divorce?

Young couple breaking up

Many people avoid taking the step from separated to divorced because they are worried that the process will sour their relationship with their spouse. In the media, every divorce breaks down into a long, painful battle of wills. When in reality, many families are able to complete an amicable divorce, without all the hard feelings. Understanding what is considered an amicable divorce, and how to keep conflict low, can be the key to setting yourself and your family up for a peaceful transition to life after divorce.

What is an Amicable Divorce?

Amicable divorce is the dissolution of a marriage, without burning the bridge of the couples’ relationship. In Michigan, at least, amicable divorce is less of a process and more of a mindset. It is a commitment both soon to be ex-spouses make to treat one another civilly and with respect, and to take steps to avoid conflict. It can best be understood by what it isn’t: amicable divorce doesn’t use the litigation process to “get back” at your spouse or fight to keep your kids away from their other parent out of spite. It isn’t adversarial. It isn’t you versus your spouse. Instead, amicable divorce means that both spouses are working together to dissolve their marriage in a way that helps keep the peace.

The Difference Between Amicable, Uncontested and Collaborative Divorce

Because it is mostly a mindset, amicable divorce is also used as a blanket term that applies to a variety of alternative dispute resolution options. The process of resolving an amicable divorce could include mediation, informal negotiations (with or without the help of attorneys), and other low-conflict options including Collaborative divorce.

Amicable Divorce vs Collaborative Divorce

In Collaborative law (which can also apply to custody cases), each party works with an attorney, and often a therapist/divorce coach, to address their divorce issues. Together, the couple also works with a financial planner, appraiser, parenting coordinator, and any other experts who can help them plan for their family’s future.

The Collaborative divorce process teaches the couple conflict resolution strategies and techniques, and applies those techniques to the issues at hand. This resolves the problems of the moment, and gives the couple tools to be better coparents and ex-spouses in the future. While Collaborative divorce is one type of amicable divorce, it has additional structures and steps that may or may not be well suited to resolving your marriage.

Amicable Divorce vs Uncontested Divorce

When an amicable divorce resolves, whether using the Collaborative divorce process or some other mechanism, the legal process used to end the marriage in Michigan is called an uncontested divorce (also known as a joint divorce). This is a streamlined court proceeding where spouses work together to petition the court to legally dissolve their marriage pursuant to the terms of MCR 3.223.

They file a petition to submit to court jurisdiction and request for entry of a proposed consent judgment or proposed consent order on a form approved by the State Court Administrative Office along with any related orders for child support, spousal support, or to distribute retirement assets. In these types of cases, the parties are known as “Party A” and “Party B” rather than Plaintiff and Defendant in keeping with the non-adversarial nature of the process.

After a short waiting period of at least 60 days, there is a single court hearing where both spouses must be present to answer a short list of questions, and asks the judge to sign the orders. Cases that resulted in a consent judgment via the formal Collaborative process filed in accordance with MCR 3.222 may only have one spouse appear. In cases involving minor children, parties must either wait six months or include in their petition a request to waive the six-month statutory waiting period. If the waiver is granted by the Court a minimum of 60 days must still be satisfied first. If the documents have been prepared correctly, the couple will be divorced at the end of that hearing.

Without a formal divorce, all your divorce efforts will not legally end your marriage. Even if you resolve your issues at mediation or through Collaborative law, you need a judge to sign an order to make you single again, whether the request is filed via the uncontested divorce route or the traditional divorce route.

How to Divorce Amicably

Committing to an amicable divorce can be harder than it sounds. There is a reason your marriage is ending, and most divorces trigger grief, anger, and frustration along the way. If you want to divorce amicably, you and your spouse will need to actively work to keep conflict out of your conversations. Work with your lawyers to respond reasonably to all divorce-related requests. Some techniques for divorcing amicably include:

  • Putting your children’s needs at the center of every decision
  • Working with a therapist to address emotional issues
  • Viewing your spouse as a business partner or colleague and separating out personal feelings
  • Knowing your bottom line going into negotiations, and where you are willing to give and take
  • Giving yourself a cool-down period before responding to any divorce-related communication
  • Freely sharing information and documents unless there is a reason for privacy
  • Working with your attorney to develop alternatives and strategies to resolve deadlock

Get Help Resolving Your Divorce

If you and your spouse are committed to an amicable divorce, you need an attorney who will support and facilitate that decision. Unfortunately, there are lawyers out there who are more interested in their business’s profits than your future relationship with your spouse and co-parent. They may encourage you toward litigation because it results in higher attorney fees. Other lawyers thrive on their clients’ conflict, and can actually create tension and disagreements where none existed before.

That’s why it is important that you interview any potential lawyer to understand their approach to resolving divorces. Your best choice will be a firm that has certified Collaborative divorce lawyers, uses mediation and other alternative dispute resolution strategies, and evaluates each case’s issues and level of conflict to determine if they are a good candidate for amicable divorce options.

At NSSSB, we help many couples and co-parents resolve their Michigan divorces or custody disputes amicably, without hostile trial proceedings. Our Ann Arbor divorce attorneys will walk you through the options to resolve your divorce amicably, and assist you in filing your petition for uncontested divorce once you and your spouse have reached an agreement. Click here to schedule a consultation with our divorce team.