Your getting divorced options are:
- Do your own divorce
- Get a litigated divorce
- Pursue a collaborative divorce
The book Divorce the Collaborative Way- Is It the Way For You? introduces you to three divorce alternatives and also provides general explanations of how they each work. However, as the title of this book suggests, the rest of the chapters focus on the collaborative divorce process specifically because as a divorce professional, I believe that it’s the superior way for most married couples to end their marriage. As you read Divorce the Collaborative Way…, our reasons for thinking this way will become clear. If you and your spouse decide to do your own divorce, you’ll work out the terms of your settlement agreement and file all of the legally required paperwork on your own without the help of attorneys. (In a variation of this arrangement, some couples do their own negotiating and then one of them hires an attorney who formalizes everything by drafting the appropriate legal documents.) Doing your own divorce has its advantages and disadvantages. Its primary advantages are:
- You’ll minimize your involvement with the legal system.
- Your divorce will not cost a lot because you won’t incur any attorney fees or expenses other than a court filing fee of between $350 and $400.
- You and your spouse will have complete control over your divorce, including deciding when, where and how you’ll work out the terms of your settlement agreement. The key disadvantages of a do-it-yourself divorce include:
• You won’t have an attorney by your side to explain the intricacies of the law, to negotiate for you, to look out for your best interests, and to help you avoid costly mistakes.
If you aren’t fully informed about your family’s finances, don’t understand your legal rights, or if your spouse is a much better negotiator than you are, you may not get what you are entitled to in your divorce and you may agree to terms that are legally unenforceable.
If your experience mirrors that of many other people who try to do their own divorce, you and your spouse will abandon your do-it-yourself efforts eventually and hire attorneys.
When a Do-It-Yourself Divorce is Not a Good Idea
Even attempting to do your own divorce is a foolhardy idea if:
- You and your spouse can’t have a calm, non-emotional conversation about the issues in your divorce. If that’s the case, your efforts to work out the terms of your divorce will be little more than an exercise in frustration and futility.
- You and your spouse have trouble communicating with one another. For example, you can’t get your points across and/or your spouse constantly interrupts you.
- You and your spouse are unwilling to consider one another’s points of view and to compromise with each other. In order to have a successful negotiation, you must be open to taking each other’s points of view into account.
- You’re easily manipulated by your spouse or your spouse is abusive to you. Under such circumstances doing your own divorce is a recipe for disaster.
- You know little or nothing about your family’s finances. If you are unfamiliar with what you and your spouse own and owe as a couple, you’re likely to end up on the “short end of the stick” financially.
- Your marital estate includes complicated assets, like stocks and mutual funds, investment real estate, pensions, other retirement assets, or business interests.
- You and your spouse are unable to agree on how to share parenting time.
Melinda Hartman Eitzen is a partner at Duffee+Eitzen. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you enjoyed this article, When a Do-It-Yourself Divorce is Not a Good Idea, you can read more on this topic in the book Divorce the Collaborative Way. Is it the Way for You? by Melinda Eitzen, Scott Clarke, and Vicki James