By: Marc A. Rapaport
In 1999, I founded DivorceToday.com with the goal of providing people with a low-cost alternative to outrageously expensive divorce lawyers. The overriding goal of DivorceToday.com is to provide information and forms for people who are interested in getting a divorce without a lawyer (i.e., a do it yourself divorce). As a practical matter, divorcing without a lawyer is not appropriate for everyone. As discussed below, people with contested issues, or who do not have the time to get familiar with the divorce forms, may have no alternative than to hire a divorce lawyer.
First and foremost, a do-it-yourself divorce is realistic only in "uncontested" divorce cases (i.e., cases in which both parties agree on all issues, including but not limited to financial matters).
In addition, both parties must be able to take the time to review the divorce forms that must be filed with the court to get a judgment of divorce. The quantity and complexity of the necessary forms for divorce depends on a variety of factors, including the state in which the parties reside, and the complexity of the issues involved. Cases that involve children or substantial property (for example, real estate) often require written matrimonial settlement agreements. We provide sample separation/marital settlement agreements for download. For most states, we also provide people with the option of having DivorceToday prepare a customized marital settlement agreement. This means that we use your information and instructions to prepare a detailed, case-specific marital agreement for you.
Beyond using do-it-yourself divorce forms, there are a variety of other things that you can do to ensure that your divorce does not morph into a “divorce from hell”. Even if you intend to hire a lawyer for your divorce, there are a variety of steps that you can take to make sure that your divorce proceeds as quickly and inexpensively as possible. The keys to a cheap divorce include:
Do Not Involve Your Children in Your Dispute: People who purposely exploit their children as pawns in their marital disputes merely escalate the emotional stress for everyone involved, and virtually guarantee that their divorces will last longer and inflict long-term emotional damage. To the extent possible, try to resist the temptation of venting your emotions in the presence of your children.
Try to Focus, as Soon as Possible, on a Realistic Outcome: Usually, it is relatively easy to ascertain, at a relatively early stage, what the reasonable range of likely outcomes is with respect to various issues in your divorce. For example, with respect to distribution of property, the laws of most states provide that in long-term marriages (10 years or more) property is divided equally. By reading about the law of your state, or discussing your case with a lawyer, you should be able to develop a reasonable understanding of how most, if not all, of the issues ancillary to your divorce will likely be resolved. By developing realistic expectations at an early stage, you will be able to have productive settlement discussions with your spouse, and thus move quickly toward an amicable resolution.
Gather Your Financial Records. Regardless of whether you try to resolve your case on your own, or intend to hire an attorney, you will need to have basic financial information and records. At a minimum, you need to gather your tax returns, credit card statements and bank statements for the prior two (2) years.
Consider Therapy. If you find that you are experiencing anxiety, sadness or trauma due to the demise of your marital relationship, you should strongly consider seeing therapist. The courts are filled with cases in which one or both parties is blinded by their anger or trauma, and thus unable to make the difficult decisions needed to settle their divorce cases. Also, your ability to exercise good judgment, and to act appropriately, is particularly essential if there are issues pertaining to custody of children in your case.
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