Couple went to a lawyer to resolve divorce outside of court.

Nothing about divorce is easy. But for many people, one of the most unsettling aspects of divorce is the prospect of going to court. The courtroom environment can be unfamiliar and intimidating, and the idea of having your future in the hands of a judge is anxiety-provoking. After all, no judge can understand your family and its needs like you do. So, the question is, can you get a divorce without going to court?

The answer is yes—for the most part. In most states, including Maryland, if you have resolved all the issues related to you and your spouse’s children and property, you may only have to have to make a brief appearance in court to “finalize your divorce”. Accordingly, you can avoid what most people think of as “going to court:” testifying about your marriage and its breakdown, presenting evidence and witness testimony, and having a judge make lasting decisions about child custody, financial support, and property.

The key to divorce without court involvement is reaching a settlement agreement with your spouse. That may feel impossible at the moment, if you’re not exactly on amicable terms right now. But finding a way to negotiate an agreement is worthwhile—not only because it allows you to avoid going to court, but because you are likely to end up with a result you are more willing and content to live with.

How to Get a Divorce Without Going to Court

Mutual Consent Divorce

In Maryland, mutual consent divorce is one way to end your marriage. Mutual consent divorce is a streamlined divorce process in which you reach an agreement resolving all issues in your divorce: child custody and visitation, division of property, spousal support, and child support. One of the advantages of mutual consent divorce is that it allows you to file for divorce without alleging fault and without the need to live apart from your spouse for one year.

Mutual consent divorce is a great option if you and your spouse get along well enough to sit down at the kitchen table and hash out the terms of your divorce on your own. But even if you are not on such terms, you can still reach a compromise with the assistance of other divorce professionals as needed. (And even if you are able to reach a resolution with your spouse, you should still have an attorney review it to make sure it meets necessary legal requirements and that you understand your rights and obligations pursuant to it).

Moreover, even if you would like a mutual consent divorce, but you and your spouse are struggling to reach agreement, there are various ways to get the help you need so you can still avoid going to court.

Attorney-Negotiated Settlement

Direct communication between divorcing spouses can get emotional, even heated. It can be hard to stay focused on the issues you want to resolve, and it’s easy for other grievances to creep into the discussion. That’s why it’s often easier to negotiate a resolution with the help of your attorneys. Your attorneys are objective, and they understand how the law applies to the facts of your case—in other words, they likely understand better than you what a judge might decide if the matter went to the courtroom.

Negotiating with your attorneys present, or through your attorneys can keep the process of divorce calmer and more focused on your goals. More importantly, your attorneys can serve as the voice of reason in your discussions if needed. When you resolve all the disputed issues related to your marriage, your attorneys can prepare a settlement agreement that reflects your specific terms.


Mediation is another way to resolve your divorce without going to court. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in which a trained, neutral third party helps you and your spouse to identify disputed issues in your divorce and facilitates resolution. You may attend mediation with or without your attorneys.

A mediator is a specially trained professional whose job it is to help each party to a conflict reach resolution. The mediator’s role is not to take a side, make a decision for you or even to generate options. Instead, a mediator facilitates respectful communication between you and your spouse to enable you to come up with resolutions designed for your family’s needs. Often mediation yields creative, customized solutions that a court could not, or would not, produce.

If you resolve all issues in your divorce through mediation, the mediator will help you memorialize your agreement in writing for your attorneys to use as the basis of drafting your divorce settlement.

Collaborative Divorce

Another process to resolve your divorce outside of court is called Collaborative Divorce. Collaborative Divorce is another form of ADR. The process involves specially-trained attorneys having a series of meetings with you and your spouse (and other neutral professionals) to resolve disputed issues in your divorce. You and your attorneys agree in writing to negotiate honestly, openly, and respectfully, and not to resort to using litigation (even as a negotiation tactic). If the collaborative process does break down and either side decides to go to court to conclude your divorce, you and your spouse will both need to find new attorneys and professionals to litigate the matter for you.

Like mediation, Collaborative Divorce enables you and your spouse to come up with your own creative resolutions to challenging issues, and the format promotes positive communication and a cordial relationship with your spouse—an important factor if you will need to co-parent together in the future. Besides requiring your attorneys to be present in negotiation, Collaborative Divorce is different from mediation because it involves other professionals.

For example, in Collaborative Divorce, you might have the help of a financial neutral (e.g. a CPA) who helps you and your spouse understand your resources and budgets so you can figure out financial support and equitable distribution issues. Divorce coaches are also available to help overcome emotional barriers to settling your divorce. And a child specialist can be utilized to serve as the voice of your children during the divorce process, keeping you focused on meeting their needs.

After you resolve disputed issues through various meetings with your attorneys and other professionals, the attorneys can prepare the settlement agreement for you and the court to sign.

The bottom line is that you don’t need to spend a lot of time in court in order to get the divorce you want or need. The little time you do spend in a courtroom may simply formalize the end of your marriage and provide a moment of closure. To learn more about mutual consent divorce and other options for getting a divorce without court involvement, contact Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield to schedule a consultation.