by Ed Sherman
People often think of divorce just as a legal procedure, but actually, the legal divorce is only a subcategory of the practical real divorce. The real divorce is what your life is about and how you go about it. And unless you decide to get counseling or go into therapy, the real divorce is free. It is, however, very costly in terms of personal effort, but you can reduce the cost by learning to avoid the common traps, which I discuss in another article, Divorce—Avoid These Common Traps. Going through major life changes—in other words, recreating your life—is demanding, painful, hard work, but it may be the most important and rewarding thing you can do.
As far as the law is concerned, divorce is about just three things: property, children and support. That’s it and that’s all. To get a legal divorce, you have to settle these issues:
- How to divide whatever property and debts have accumulated during the marriage
- If there will be spousal support; and if so, how much and for how long
- When minor children are involved, how parents will share the care and duties of raising the children, and how much child support will be paid
If you can’t settle these issues between you, a third person—a judge or arbitrator—who doesn’t know you or your family, will take as little time as possible to make the decisions for you. Whether you do it yourself or an attorney does it for you, you still have to gather your own facts and make your own decisions as to what you want to do, so you might as well do most or all of it yourself.
In many states, especially California, the laws are so detailed that in most situations one can predict with reasonable certainty what a judge or arbitrator will decide, so there is little to be gained from going through costly litigation or arbitration. Any problem you have has almost certainly been legislated and litigated already. This makes it possible and attractive for couples to settle their issues through negotiation or mediation rather than arbitration or court. Family resources should be split between the partners to a marriage rather than the partners in a law firm.
For more information on how to deal with the real divorce, read:
- Divorce–Obstacles to Agreement
- Divorce–Overcoming Obstacles to Agreement
- Divorce–Negotiating Agreement
- Divorce–Ten Ways to Divide Property Without a Fight
- Divorce–When the Date of Separation Matters
- Divorce–How to Protect Your Children
- Divorce–Who Can Help?
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.