by Ed Sherman
There are many advantages to doing your own divorce. Three significant ones are: you’ll get a better divorce, you’ll save a lot of money, and you’ll be able to keep things simple.
Getting a good divorce
Studies show that active participation in your divorce is the single most important factor in getting a good divorce. “Good divorce” means such things as better compliance with agreements and orders after the divorce, less post-divorce conflict, less post-divorce litigation, more good will, and better co-parenting.
People who take an active role generally do much better emotionally and legally than those who try to avoid the work and responsibility for solving their divorce problems. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get help from an attorney–it means you should be actively involved, become informed about the rules and make your own decisions. Put yourself in charge of your case; run your own life.
Saving a Lot of Money
When a lawyer is in charge of your case, even simple, unopposed cases cost a lot, and if your case becomes stirred up through increased conflict, the cost goes even higher. Most lawyers collect a fairly stiff fee for doing even a simple uncontested divorce. They average anywhere from $500 to $5000 for doing a job that is quite simple and that is usually done by an underpaid secretary anyway.
Whether you pay the usual fee, or find a cut-rate deal, lawyers tend not to give you much time or information. Rarely, if ever, do you get to speak with the lawyer, and then only briefly. You almost always end up wondering what’s going on, but there is no one to talk to about it. You can save this aggravation, and save at least $500 to $1500 by doing it yourself, and probably much more. In some states, a simple divorce can cost anywhere from $2000 to $5000 per party who has retained an attorney, and a contested case can cost hundreds of thousands on each side.
Keeping it simple
Most people start off with a case that is either fairly simple or one that could probably become simple if it is handled right. Such cases don’t usually stay simple after an attorney is retained. Divorces tend to be fairly sensitive and it doesn’t take much to stir them up, but lawyers have a way of making almost anything more complicated, more stirred up, worse instead of better. This is because of the way lawyers are trained and the way the system works.
When one spouse gets an attorney, the other spouse is likely to get one too, and then the fun really begins. Two attorneys start off costing just double, but pretty soon they are writing letters, filing motions, and doing standard attorney-type things, just like they were taught. Now we have a contested case, more fees and charges, and a couple of very upset spouses.
In the end, you will still have to negotiate your settlement with your spouse. Over 90% of all cases settle without trial, but when lawyers are retained, settlement usually comes after the spouses are emotionally depleted and their bank accounts are exhausted. Why go through all that? If you do it entirely by yourself, or with the help of a carefully selected attorney who has not taken over your entire case, there’s a much better chance of keeping a simple case simple and of reaching a settlement much earlier.
Copyright 2005 Ed Sherman
Ed Sherman is a family law attorney, divorce expert, and founder of Nolo Press. He started the self-help law movement in 1971 when he published the first edition of How to Do Your Own Divorce, and founded the paralegal industry in 1973. With more than a million books sold, Ed has saved the public billions of dollars in legal fees while making divorce go more smoothly and easily for millions of readers. You can order his books from www.nolotech.com or by calling (800) 464-5502.
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