Does the fact that you want to end your marriage mean you have to go to court? You know that it’s a legal matter. Maybe you have friends who told you about their court experience when ending other marriages. Have you always just assumed that’s how it works?

Many people do assume that, but the truth is that you do have options to keep the divorce out of court. You can, for instance, opt to use divorce mediation. A mediator helps guide you and your spouse to divorce solutions on your own. There is no judge telling you what you have to do. All decisions are made by you and your spouse, the two people who will be most impacted by them.

Mediation is not always simple, though. The mediator can help by telling you about your options, any applicable laws — which you still need to follow — and what will happen if mediation fails. But they don’t make your decisions, so you and your spouse have to cooperate. You have to work together. If you don’t want to do so or if there are issues that you will never see eye-to-eye on — such as both wanting sole custody of the kids — then mediation won’t work.

Instead, you need to adopt a spirit of cooperation. You have to make your goal getting divorced on your own terms, rather than “winning” or getting everything you want. With compromise and cooperation, though, you can leave a court case behind and explore other ways to end a marriage. If you’re interested in doing that, make sure you know what options you have.