How Do I Get A Simple Divorce?
SO, YOU WANT A SIMPLE DIVORCE?
I often hear this from prospective clients, usually in relation to the anticipated cost of getting divorced. As in, “how much will it cost me for a simple divorce?” My answer is normally, “it depends,” and that begins a rather lengthy conversation about what, exactly it depends on.
In my experience, there are several things that can contribute to making a “simple” divorce complicated. At times, we’re dealing with complex issues, like sorting out the value of a business, separating marital assets from non-marital assets, or spousal support. In other situations, the issues may be rather straightforward, but one party may not be emotionally ready to get divorced. It’s not at all unusual for parties in a divorce to be at different stages of readiness in relation to the divorce. Often, one party may have been ready to leave the marriage six months, or even a year ago. Sometimes even longer than that. So, it can take the other spouse a bit of time to get up to speed.
If one spouse is still grieving the loss of the marriage, he or she may not be anxious to get to the finish line. The reluctant spouse may, wittingly or unwittingly, create obstacles that make it more difficult to finish the process, and that can frustrate the spouse who was ready to be divorced on Day 1.
SO, HOW DO I CHANGE THAT?
Let’s look at the constants first: You can’t change the situation itself. It is what it is. You can’t change the issues that need to be resolved. The same issues must be dealt with, one way or the other. You can’t change your spouse, although you certainly may have tried. Let’s face it, if you could change your spouse, you probably wouldn’t be looking for a divorce attorney.
SO, WHAT CAN I CHANGE?
You can determine how you will conduct yourself during the divorce proceedings and how you will interact with your spouse. Making a good faith effort to act according to your own values and integrity can go a long way in keeping matters simple and minimizing the stress and drama that can often accompany a divorce.
You also have the ability to select the divorce process you would prefer to use to resolve the issues in your divorce. In some cases, when the issues are simple and both parties are emotionally ready to do so, parties are able to sit down together and discuss the issues in a reasonable, rational way. That is usually called the kitchen table process. Most divorcing couples need a bit more support than that, however, so many couples elect to use mediation or the collaborative process.
In mediation, the parties use the services of a neutral mediator to guide them through their negotiations to reach a settlement. The parties have attorneys to give them legal advice, but the attorneys aren’t usually directly involved in the settlement negotiations. In the collaborative process, each party works with their own collaboratively-trained attorney, and other team members, including a neutral mental health coach to assist the couple in their communication during the settlement negotiations. If one party is angry or sad about their spouse’s decision to leave the marriage, the involvement of a coach can be invaluable in helping the reluctant party deal with his or her emotions sensitively and therapeutically. That can pave the way for more focused and productive settlement negotiations. Many collaborative teams also include a neutral financial specialist to assist them in negotiating the financial settlement including the division of property, spousal support, child support, valuation of separate and marital property, and other complex financial issues.
SO, WHAT’S MY NEXT STEP?
If your goal is to have a “simple divorce,” the key is to find the best fit, for you and your spouse, in terms of the process you choose, and in the divorce professionals you select. Review the St. Louis Collaborative Family Law website for more information, and a list of family law attorneys trained in mediation and the collaborative process. Many attorneys in the St. Louis Collaborative Family Law Association offer an initial consultation at no charge, so you will have an opportunity to determine the best fit for you, in the divorce process and in your choice of an attorney.
About The Author: Marjorie Carter
Marjorie is an attorney and former member of CFLA.
How to Have an Inexpensive Divorce
No one wants a long, expensive, and contentious divorce. While sometimes unavoidable, there are many things that you and your soon-to-be former spouse can do to keep the process of the dissolution of your marriage as civil and efficient as possible.
7 Tips to Lower Your Divorce Costs
1. Understand Your “Process Options”
Most divorces end with an agreement not a trial, but the path to the agreement can look very different depending on the process you follow. It’s important to choose a process that gives you and your spouse as much help as you need to reach an agreement, not more and not less. Do your homework so that you understand the differences between traditional litigation, a collaborative process, mediation and a simple non-contested divorce, before you dive in to the legal process and substantive negotiations. Choose a process that is most likely to work for your situation. A meeting with your spouse and a mediator or divorce coach can help you to assess what path may work best for your family.
2. Be Organized
Regardless of the process you use, your lawyer will need detailed financial and other information from you throughout your case. Giving your lawyer the needed information in a timely and organized way will help your lawyer to be more efficient. Follow up phone calls and the need for multiple edits will add to the cost of your legal bills.
3. Try not to Scare Each Other
Often during a divorce process, trust is low and anxiety is high. Making unanticipated financial moves or taking unilateral action regarding your children can set off an adversarial snowball which can be difficult to stop. If you and your spouse can manage finances wisely and treat each other fairly while your marriage is unwinding you will avoid expensive interventions by your lawyers and the court while you are making your final decisions.
4. Manage Your Emotions
Strong emotions are normal during a divorce process but they can get in the way of making good business and financial decisions. Working with a therapist as you move through this transition can help you to keep your cool during a difficult time.
5. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Disagreements over household goods, furnishings or personal items can take on emotional significance well beyond their financial value. Talk with your mediator, lawyer or therapist about ways to approach division of these items in an orderly way without involving your lawyers in those negotiations.
6. Minimize New Relationships
Even though your marriage is ending, the introduction of a new person in your life before things are finalized can cause strong emotional reactions in your spouse. This is can be even more so if children are introduced to new relationships. Extra marital relationships can sometimes impact your financial settlement, but even when that is not the case, these relationships can make your divorce more contentious and expensive. Waiting to move on until your marriage has ended will help the dissolution go more smoothly.
7. Say Yes When You Can
When dealing with your custody arrangements, if your spouse needs accommodation, whether to reschedule a weekend, or have a child for a special occasion, say yes if you can. This will set the groundwork for a cooperative co-parenting relationship rather than starting things off on an adversarial track.
It takes two to keep things from escalating from a problem to be solved to a war to be waged, but if you follow the above steps you will increase the chances that the dissolution of your marriage, while tough territory under any circumstances, will be as civil and efficient as possible.
Can We Both Use the Same Divorce Attorney?
This is a question many couples ask who are thinking about divorce. There are many reasons why people want to use one attorney and usually, it comes down to finances. How can we cut our costs of this divorce since attorneys are expensive, how can we divorce and not get into a nasty court battle and how can we remain civil because of the children?
Although a divorce can be costly if two attorneys are involved, a lawyer cannot represent both sides in a divorce. So, even though the simple answer is NO, one attorney cannot represent both parties in a divorce, the complex answer is YES only one party has to hire an attorney. So one lawyer can be used for a divorce IF they only work for one side. The next question is how can an attorney work for only one side and still do all the paperwork for the divorce? The example below explains how the process could work.
Example of Using One Attorney
For example, Wife hires an attorney. Wife meets with the attorney who will go over the divorce process and what is necessary to get divorced. Wife’s attorney will prepare the documents for filing the case with the court and sends all of the documents to Husband. Husband can get the documents filed at the courthouse by service, or by mail if Husband signs a document saying he got the court papers and he does not want a sheriff to serve them with papers. There are deadlines and timeframes that everyone must follow whether they are represented or not represented by an attorney.
Wife will then meet with the attorney and provide the attorney with her understanding of the agreement between her and her Husband. The attorney will write up the agreement based on what the Wife tells the attorney. The Husband will get copies of this agreement for him to review. If Husband agrees with everything in the paperwork that Wife’s attorney has prepared he does not need to hire an attorney. If he agrees with most of it he can go back to his Wife and request changes. And if she agrees, then she contacts her attorney to change the paperwork. If the agreement reflects what both Husband and Wife want, then the agreement is signed. In this example only one attorney is used to complete the divorce. However, the attorney does not meet with Husband.
Sometimes it is confusing to say Wife hires the attorney if Husband pays a part or all of the attorney fees of Wife's attorney. However, the payment of attorney fees does not mean you have hired the attorney. Only if you have entered into an agreement that the attorney will represent you have you hired the attorney. In this example, Husband and Wife used only one attorney but only Wife was represented and the only person to meet with the attorney.
One Divorce Attorney Cannot Represent Both Sides
Many people wonder why the attorney cannot meet with both parties and do work for both of them. Attorney ethic rules say an attorney cannot represent both sides of a case even if both sides are in agreement. In a divorce even if everyone agrees on the outcome, the parties are on opposite sides of the case. The only exemption is if the attorney is serving as the mediator of the divorce and then they can meet with both parties. In the case of a mediator, both parties would sign an agreement with the mediator and it would be clear the attorney is acting in this case as a mediator and not an attorney for either the Wife or Husband.
About the Author : Sharon Remis
Sharon is an attorney and former member of CFLA.