No one enters a marriage thinking, “You know what would be really fun? If in a few years, we end up screaming at each other and asking a judge to decide which of us gets custody of our children.”

Divorce happens. For many, many couples.

Unfortunately, many of those couples find themselves swept into a painful and destructive process. Often, they don’t realize that a divorce doesn’t have to be that way.

Learn more: How to Ask for a Divorce (Without Ending Up in Court)

What is an amicable divorce?

An amicable divorce is a divorce where both parties agree on the key settlement points. Those critical pieces are spousal and child support, division of property, and child visitation and custody. Spouses make these agreements without litigation (aka, time in front of a judge) but often do get help from an attorney.

An amicable divorce doesn’t involve fighting in court. That doesn’t mean it’s a light-hearted event or that you and your spouse will hug and be friends afterwards.

Good humor and friendliness are not required for an amicable divorce.

You simply have to be willing to come to an agreement on the terms of your divorce between yourselves. That means you don’t ask a court to make decisions for you.

And here are two important things to note. First, judges like amicable divorces. Most judges believe it’s better for couples to work together without the court’s interference. In some states (including Georgia), courts require mediation before a couple can have a final hearing or begin a trial before a judge.

Second, amicable divorces tend to be cheaper and take less time. They’re often uncontested divorces, which means less money spent on lawyers and arguments.  

How do I get an amicable divorce?

Here’s the good news: you have a lot of control over whether your divorce is an amicable one. Let’s look at the steps you can take for a more peaceful divorce.

Choose an amicable divorce

Choosing an amicable divorce is exactly that — a choice. And it may not be an easy one. Even spouses who agree on getting a divorce may not agree on specific issues.

Yes, it helps if your spouse also wants an amicable divorce, but choosing the peaceful approach for yourself is the first step. Knowing you want a shorter and less-expensive divorce may give you the strength to remain reasonable even if your spouse is not doing the same.

The best way to ensure that you’re going to have an amicable divorce is to choose to behave respectfully and calmly. It’s also a good way to persuade an unconvinced spouse that an amicable divorce will be better for both of you.

Let’s not pretend that giving into anger or hostility doesn’t feel good sometimes. It does. Making a list of the reasons you want an amicable divorce can help you stay committed to a more peaceful process. Some examples might be:

  • You want to save money and avoid excess spending on fighting
  • You’d like to avoid testifying in court
  • You’ll be co-parenting with your ex in the future and want that relationship to go smoothly
  • You want to focus on what comes next

Focus on your end goals

Do not try to “win” your divorce.

In my book, the person who wins the divorce is the person who gets to move on to a new chapter without a huge weight hanging onto them. In many of the divorces I’ve handled, both parties win.

That doesn’t mean they both get every single thing they want. It means they reach an agreement that serves both of them. They keep their eye on the big picture — closing this chapter and opening the next with as little pain and drama as possible.

Hire an amicable divorce attorney

Once you’ve decided that you want an amicable divorce, you can take actions that increase your chances of having one.

Like other professions, family law and divorce attorneys have varying styles and specialties. Some divorce attorneys have a shark-like style. They love going to court and getting every penny out of the other side. They’re fighters.

Other divorce attorneys try to help their clients have a more peaceful settlement. If you don’t want all the fighting, don’t hire someone that loves the fight.

Get legal advice from an attorney who specializes in amicable divorces. If neither you nor your spouse are afraid you’re about to get gouged, you’ll be much more likely to feel amicable.

Set realistic expectations

Amicable doesn’t mean fun, and it doesn’t mean easy.

Divorces are almost always hard and painful. If you expect ease, you may get blindsided by uncomfortable and surprising emotions.

Talk with a therapist. Some couples find that counseling throughout their divorce helps them process. The end of a relationship can bring up a lot of feelings. Therapy can be especially useful for couples that will be co-parenting.

Avoid the blame game

Leave blame out of your divorce settlement and negotiations.

No one likes being blamed, and most of us don’t respond as our best selves when we’re the subject of it. The same goes for punishment.

You may want your spouse to suffer. Get a voodoo doll.

Don’t bring blame and punishment into your settlement negotiations.

Don’t gossip

Try to keep your divorce between you and your spouse.

Everyone needs to vent — especially in the middle of a divorce — and you may need to process what you’re going through with friends and family. But if you know that your friend has a reputation for blabbing, don’t talk about your divorce with them.

If you are sharing, remember to stay firm in your own views. Your mom may disagree that an amicable divorce is more valuable than punishing your spouse. She’s allowed to have her own views, but try not to let her get into your head.

This is your divorce, and you’re the one that will suffer if it becomes contentious.

Ask for help

While divorce can feel scary and isolating, you and your spouse aren’t the first people to go through it. Many professionals have experience helping couples come to a harmonious resolution. Start with your amicable divorce attorney, but you don’t have to stop there. In Georgia, we are fortunate to have a network of divorce professionals who agree to resolve cases amicably.

Mediators spend every day helping people solve their conflicts without court intervention. Mediators aren’t judges, and they don’t make decisions about how to resolve a case. They do help parties state their grievances and find common ground for a mutually-agreeable resolution.

For couples with children, interactions won’t end with a finalized settlement. A custody professional or a couples therapist that specializes in co-parenting can be invaluable.

Financial coaches can also support couples through the sticky financial questions that arise. Be sure to work with someone that supports an amicable process.

Your divorce doesn’t have to be messy or dramatic. And you don’t have to go through it alone. At Porchlight, we believe the end of a relationship can be a peaceful step toward the beginning of something new. Call us to see how we can help.