What is the cheapest way to get divorced? The most expensive way? The best way? The answer is different to all three questions. In fact, divorce is one of those things where the best way is not necessarily the least or most expensive.
As for the least expensive way — you could do it yourself. Divorce forms are available at the local courthouse, and the court clerk may provide a little help. But, unless you are trained in family law, you may wind up making mistakes — both big and small — — that will haunt you down the road.
The most expensive way is divorce litigation. In divorce litigation, both parties hire lawyers to hash out the details of their agreement. In New Jersey, most lawyers start by asking for a $5,000 retainer. Then they bill hourly, drawing the money from the retainer, often at $300/hour and more. Litigation is time-consuming and adversarial — meaning conflict can be increased rather than minimized. At the end of the process, you will have an agreement, but you may be out a lot of money, and emotionally drained.
So, the best way? The best way is divorce mediation. In divorce mediation, the couple works with one mediator who helps them come to an agreement on parenting and finances that works for them and their family. Working with a trained divorce mediator helps you avoid the pitfalls of do-it-yourself divorce because the divorce mediator knows the right questions to ask, and considers everyone's best interest. The process is quicker and more economical than divorce litigation because both spouses work with one person instead of two. The goal is agreement, not conflict, as well as preserving a civil relationship, which is especially important when there are children involved. Over all, divorce mediation offers the best — not the cheapest or most expensive — — path through a difficult time in your life.