Updated: Jun 13, 2022
Thinking of handling your divorce yourself, without hiring any professionals to assist you? It can be done, but it is often ill-advised. Here are some things to think about:
1. How complex is your situation? How long have you been married? Do you have any children? If so, how old are they? Do you own any real estate or things other than your personal property, like clothing? Do you have a family-owned business? Are your assets jointly or individually owned? Do you have any retirement accounts? Did you own anything before you were married?
2. Are you and your soon-to-be ex on good speaking terms? Will you be able to work together toward an amenable resolution?
3. Do you have the time and energy to research what forms are needed and how to file them? This may take several trips to your local courthouse.
4. What is the "opportunity cost" of doing it yourself? In other words, what else could you be doing if you weren't trying to figure out how to find, fill out, and file the correct paperwork? Is this going to take time away from your work/family? If it will take time away from work, will you lose income because of this?
5. What is the emotional cost of doing it yourself versus getting some professional assistance? Divorce is painful even in the most agreeable situations. Are you emotionally prepared for the frustrations and difficulties that you may face handling this yourself? Will this add to your emotional burden?
If the questions have you reconsidering trying to represent yourself, consider one or a combination of these options that will typically cost less than the traditional, adversarial divorce process:
1. You and your soon-to-be former spouse can each seek an initial consultation with an attorney of their choosing. If your goal is to settle amicably with the least amount of expense, be sure and tell the attorney that. Research attorneys in your area who may be certified family law mediators or who advertise as a collaborative attorney.
An attorney who specializes in family law in your area should be able to give you some idea of how the issues are likely to resolve in court. This will give you and your partner some good information to use when negotiating a settlement between the two of you.
2. Schedule a meeting with a family law certified mediator. You do not have to have an attorney to hire a mediator. The mediator will likely meet with both of you together and separately during this meeting. The mediator is required to keep all negotiations confidential so information cannot be used against you later if you do not end up settling. You can also instruct a mediator to keep information that you convey during a private meeting with the mediator confidential from your spouse, if you wish. If you come to an agreement, the mediator will usually draw up the necessary paperwork for you to file.
3. If you and your spouse agree to the terms of your divorce, you can hire an attorney to draw up a binding agreement and file the necessary paperwork for you.
Most mediators and attorneys charge by the hour. Some may charge a flat fee for "packages" of services, affording you some predictability of the cost.
Whether or not to hire a professional to assist you with your divorce is a personal question that only you can answer. Keep in mind that, in the end, you may actually save time and money, and gain greater peace of mind, by hiring a professional to assist you in one of the less traditional capacities mentioned above.