When it comes to getting a divorce, there are a number of options open to Massachusetts residents. Why? A one-size-fits-all approach to ending a marriage simply does not work. This week, this column will discuss all of the divorce options available, including divorce mediation — which is often the preferred method.

Option number one: traditional settlement negotiations. The way divorce has worked for a long time is, each party retains lawyers, the lawyers do the negotiating, a settlement is drawn up, papers are signed and then both parties can move on with their lives. This is a popular option because it keeps the burden of achieving a fair settlement on the attorneys and limits how much spouses have to see each other throughout the process.

Option number two: mediation or other alternative dispute resolution methods. If each party wants to be involved in setting divorce terms, mediation or other ADR methods are a good way to go. In going this route, couples agree to meet in a neutral location and hash out settlement terms they believe are fair. With mediation, a neutral third-party will be present to facilitate, answer questions, keep the conversation going and draw up paperwork for submission to the court.

Option number three: litigation. Anymore, litigation is used only as a last resort. If a couple really cannot come to agreeable terms, a judge can step in and weigh in on the matter. Litigation can be time-consuming and can get ugly. This is why the state prefers divorcing couples try all other available options first.

Massachusetts residents who are considering divorce and need more information on the dissolution options available to them can turn to legal counsel to have any questions they may have answered. Whether they end up choosing divorce mediation or one of the other available methods, legal counsel can be there to help them through it. With the right assistance, fair and balanced settlement terms can be set in a reasonable time frame.