What is Adversarial Divorce & How Do You Avoid It?

What is Adversarial Divorce & How Do You Avoid It?

Everything is going to be alright. Maybe not today, but someday.

If marriage is the epitome of falling in love, then divorce is the essence of climbing out of it. About 50% of American marriages end in divorce, for better or for worse. Some couples are able to end the union quickly and cleanly, but others aren’t so lucky. There are many different types of divorce ranging from no-fault divorce to adversarial divorce. Future divorcees should be informed on the ranges of divorce, and consult a social investigation specialist to navigate their unique situation, especially if they find themselves in an adversarial divorce.

Top 10 Most Divorced Cities Infographic
Photo: Zinda & Davis

So, let’s start with adversarial divorce.

What is Adversarial Divorce?
Adversarial divorce, also known as contested divorce, occurs when both parties can’t agree upon divorce terms. Common areas of debate are:

  • Custody
  • Property Division
  • Alimony/Spousal Support
  • Child Support
  • Visitation
  • Division of Debts

When spouses cannot agree on terms, they’re forced to use a third party to mediate and divide assets. During the divorce process, adversarial divorcees have a judge rule on unresolved issues of money and assets; making the already painful divorce process even more unpalatable.

Does this sound like a long, drawn-out process? That’s because it is.

How Much Does an Adversarial Divorce Cost?
As you can imagine, the true cost of an adversarial divorce isn’t cheap. Because these divorcing couples refuse to talk to each other, some even refuse to be in the same room as each other, the process is extended. The longer the divorce process, the more checks you’ll have to give a divorce lawyer. In fact, “Couples obtaining divorces using the two-attorney adversarial process spent 134% more in total fees than couples using comprehensive divorce mediation to resolve all issues.” Don’t’ forget, you pay by the hour for family-law and divorce attorneys, so a long process will no doubt result in a long list of fees.

You read that right. 134% MORE in fees!

How Can You Avoid the Costly Divorce?
Naturally, the “we” you and your spouse were turns into “me” during the divorce process. It’s difficult, if not impossible, not to let emotions get into the mix of divorce. The more you add emotions and ego into the mix, the longer, more draining and expensive the process is.

So, what can you do to avoid the world’s longest and most expensive divorce? First, meet with a social investigator to answer your questions and address your emotions, then follow these three tips:


  • Breathe: Before walking into the law office or mediation meeting, take a long, deep breath. Calm your mind and nerves before going into any situation with your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Nothing good will come from an anxious mind or angry emotion.

  • Think: When stakes are high, it’s easy to get caught up in emotions and speak before you think. Once again, take a deep breath and think about what you’re about to say before you allow hurtful and unhelpful comments to leave your mouth.

  • Respond: Learn to respond rather than react. Use steps one and two to allow you to form strategic and illustrative responses that will help remove emotions and emphasize your needs. All while saving you time and money.


Divorces are ugly, and often unbearable. There are professionals, such as social investigators who can help guide divorcees through the process. If possible, do your best to avoid an adversarial divorce, but if life doesn’t allow it then use these tips to speed up and smooth out the process. Remember, everything is going to be alright. Maybe not today, but someday soon.

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