If you are considering divorce, your relationship has most likely been in turmoil for a while. The marriage may feel hopeless, miserable, and beyond the point of repair. Nevertheless, the decision to leave the marriage is probably one of the hardest decisions you will make. One of the first choices you’ll have to make is “how” to divorce. Most people will recommend that you hire an attorney as your first step, but this isn’t always the case. We will discuss options and how to choose the right process, if you are considering divorce.
Getting divorced is far more difficult than getting married. As a result, let’s keep things simple. Some important factors to consider are how much professional help you’ll need and what kind of help will best suit your needs.
On one end of the spectrum is Pro-Se (do it yourself), where you and your spouse make all decisions without the help of outside experts. You may be able to negotiate the divorce settlement on your own if you and your spouse are on the same page about what you want for the family.
It’s a good idea to research your state’s laws to ensure you have the knowledge (and motivation) to proceed on your own. Because navigating the court system with your spouse can be difficult. Communication, compromise, trust, and emotional capital are all required.
Divorce forms are typically available online through your state judicial branch or at your local courthouse, and the clerk or self-help desk can help guide you. The self-help desk is unable to provide legal advice. Divorce Pro-Se may be the most cost-effective option. However, you run the risk of overlooking critical items that could become bigger issues after the divorce is finalized.
Mediation is a cooperative process in which the couple meets with a neutral third party (mediator) to work out the details of the divorce. The mediator’s job is to make it easier for the spouses to communicate effectively. The goal is to reach an agreement without going to court.
The mediator will collect information from both parties, facilitate meetings, guide negotiations on heated debates, and draft the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) outlining the parties’ agreements. The mediator cannot provide legal advice to either party. Mediation is an affordable option when the couple is willing to meet in good faith to try to reach a fair agreement.
If there has been domestic violence in the marriage, mediation may not be the right option for you. In most states, a spouse will not be forced to participate in mediation with an abuser. However, if you elect to go to mediation, there are specialized domestic violence mediators. Mediators who are trained in domestic violence may separate you from your spouse. During the session, the mediator will design a plan to maintain control and safety.
The collaborative process is a comprehensive blend of legal, financial, parenting, and relational expertise. Best suited for couples who want to resolve their issues amicably while minimizing the negative impact on the family, children and future co-parenting. The collaborative process is a hybrid between a traditional divorce and mediation. As a result, each spouse hires their own collaborative attorney to represent them throughout the process. Both parties and their attorneys sign a “participation agreement.” The agreement requires the divorce proceedings to take place outside of court, and to engage in collaborative rather than combative tactics.
If either party decides to go to court to resolve any divorce issue, the collaborative attorney’s must withdraw from the process. Each spouse would need to hire new lawyer’s to enter the litigative process.
Hiring a family law attorney can mean a variety of things, but it almost always means that the attorney will lead the negotiations. Your lawyer can act as a buffer if you are unable or unwilling to communicate with your spouse. While most cases settle before going to trial, traditional cases can involve some court action, such as Case Management Conferences, Motions, Pretrial Conferences, and so on. The litigative process can be adversarial and costly. If the goal is to win at the expense of the other, it will be difficult to co-parent after a divorce.
The overall cost of a traditional divorce or the collaborative law process is determined by the level of conflict and animosity in the divorce. The ability to collaborate and compromise during the divorce process will help to reduce the cost of both options.
On the other end of the spectrum, your case can be tried in court. This is extremely uncommon, and the most expensive option. Both parties present evidence to support their claims on issues such as; asset division, child custody, spousal and child support, and other relevant matters. A Judge will make all the final decisions in your case. During a trial, you give up your right to make the best decision for your specific situation and allow the court to decide.
You could hire an attorney and also engage in mediation. One spouse could represent themself (pro-se) and the other represented by an attorney. You could hire one attorney for both spouses. Or, you could hire an attorney to provide “unbundled services” — paying a lawyer to handle specific tasks or provide advice on specific issues.
Choosing the right process can be difficult, but it is well worth the extra effort. The best way to navigate your options is to talk to a CDC Certified Divorce Coach® who can help determine the right process for your situation.
Take advantage of the FREE 30 minute discovery session with The Bridging Coach to ask questions and get help. Schedule a time that works for you: https://calendly.com/thebridgingcoach/30min