What Does It Mean to Have an Amicable Divorce?

Chances are you know at least one person who has been through a painful, bitter divorce that drained them financially and emotionally. But here's the thing nobody tells you when you first start the divorce process: It doesn't always have to be that way. In fact, plenty of couples are able to set their anger aside and work through their separation in an amicable way.

But what does the term "amicable divorce" really mean? And is it possible for every couple to work through a divorce amicably?

The meaning of “amicable”

By definition, the word amicable means “characterized by friendly goodwill.” In other words, amicable people tend to be agreeable, congenial, and calm. Amicable people usually feel at peace with the events occurring around them or have decided they’d rather work things out with others in a peaceful way than quarrel.

A lot of people misconstrue amicable divorce with approval or love. The truth is, you don’t have to be thrilled with a situation or love the person you’re dealing with to act amicably while getting divorced. In fact, you can still feel angry or upset and make the decision to work things out peacefully. Amicability is a state of mind.

What amicable divorce looks like

As the name implies, an amicable divorce is one where both spouses agree on the terms of their divorce without resorting to litigation. An amicable divorce doesn’t necessarily mean the spouses leave their marriage on friendly terms or continue to interact with one another once they sign the final paperwork. It simply means they agree on the best way to divide their assets and debts and split parenting time (if applicable) without going to court.

Amicable divorce doesn’t always look the same. Some amicable divorces are naturally uncontested, meaning both partners agreed on all divorce settlement issues from the start. But in other cases, the spouses must work together to reach an amicable agreement. They didn’t completely see eye to eye at first, but they ultimately reached a peaceful resolution through collaboration or mediation.

Here are three examples of what amicable divorce might look like

  1.  Peter and Mary tried marriage counseling and ultimately decided they’d be happier apart. They sat down at their kitchen table without any professional assistance and decided how to divide all of their assets and debts, completing all necessary divorce paperwork together. At the conclusion of their marriage, they each walked away feeling content with their decision.
  2.  Max and Elizabeth decided to divorce and agreed on how to divide their assets, but they couldn’t agree on a custody schedule for their young sons. They hired a mediator to help them resolve this aspect of their divorce without taking it to court. After several hours of back-and-forth, the mediator helped them reach a resolution that took both parties’ concerns into consideration.
  3.  Susan was unhappy in her marriage to Harry. She decided to bring up the idea of divorce in a gentle way. Initially, Harry opposed the idea and hired a lawyer. After a few months and a few thousand dollars in attorney fees, Harry decided to compromise with Susan so they could reach a settlement out of court. Both spouses signed the paperwork and went their separate ways.

Benefits of amicable divorce

Some people believe an amicable divorce isn't beneficial because it requires compromise. However, there are many reasons why an amicable divorce can be the best approach.

Amicable divorce costs less

Amicable divorce saves both spouses money. Couples who are able to reach an agreement without hiring an attorney often spend less than $1,000 on their divorce, whereas couples who take their divorce to court might each spend over $10,000.

At the end of the day, any form of amicable divorce costs less than a contested divorce – even if you hire an attorney or mediator.

Amicable divorce is less stressful

Money aside, an amicable divorce is less stressful for everyone involved. Spouses who agree to compromise argue less about their settlement. This cuts down on their anticipatory stress and removes the anxiety that comes with fighting. The lower financial burden of an amicable divorce can also help reduce stress levels.

Amicable divorce is easier on children

Amicable divorces are less stressful on everyone, including the children. Why? They don’t have to watch their parents fight or worry about the divorce proceedings. Furthermore, couples who work through their divorce amicably are also more likely to successfully co-parent without arguments or other issues because they start off their new co-parenting relationship on the right foot.

Tips for keeping it amicable

Even if you understand the benefits of amicable divorce, working through everything can be a challenge at times. Here are some suggestions for keeping your divorce conversations productive.

  1.  Set ground rules for communication. Staying on the same page about communication can help make negotiations easier. Some ground rules may include listening quietly, speaking in a normal tone, and not interrupting each other.
  2.  Think rationally. Logical thinking, not emotional thinking, is the best way to approach divorce if you want to keep the peace. Remember to check the facts and stick to them when you start to feel frustrated or disheartened. Don’t let your thoughts run wild.
  3.  Have a clear idea of your needs versus what’s negotiable. It’s important to make sure you don’t compromise to the point that you’re in a tight financial position. At the same time, it’s helpful to know where you have some leeway while striking a compromise with your soon-to-be ex.
  4.  Put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Viewing the situation from your spouse’s perspective can help you keep things amicable throughout the entire divorce process.

How mediation can help

Amicable divorce is possible, but it's not always easy. In fact, many couples need extra help to get to an amicable place. Mediation is a key solution.

A mediator is a neutral third party who assists divorcing couples as they work through their settlement issues. Often, they find creative ways for struggling couples to reach an agreement. 

A mediator is not tasked with making decisions for you or even advising you. Rather, a mediator’s job is to facilitate your negotiation process so you can find the best solution. This leaves the final decision in your hands, but it provides you with a neutral and helpful person who can assist with brainstorming and communicating with your spouse.

At Hello Divorce, we’re committed to helping couples divorce as amicably as possible – though we also help with high-conflict divorces. Our certified mediators are ready and willing to offer their expertise to help you and your spouse create a divorce agreement that meets your goals. To learn more, schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation with one of our account coordinators. To view our flat-rate pricing and purchase time with a mediator, click here.


Divorce Content Specialist
Communication, Mediation, Relationships, Divorce Insights
A content writer and editor for several digital publications and businesses, including Make Tech Easier, How-To Geek, and Clean Email.