The agreements entered for a divorce do more than end a marriage. The agreements become enforceable court orders that impact everyone’s financial future and the emotional and physical wellbeing of any children involved.
Aggressively fighting to win every legal point or trying to save a buck by doing things yourself often has the exact opposite effect than what you desire. It’s critical that you choose the appropriate way to divorce for your situation.
Pro Se is a Latin term, meaning “For one’s own behalf.” The term is used to note individuals representing themselves through a legal process. People most often represent themselves in a divorce when they do not believe they can afford a lawyer or don’t think there are any legal issues in dispute.
To get divorced, you must properly identify all property – separate and marital – and determine the allocation of debts accrued during marriage. If children are involved, the parents must agree to a parenting schedule, allocation of parental responsibilities, and calculate child support.
If there is anything left undisclosed or not addressed properly in the final agreements, there could be significant consequences.
While less expensive initially, Pro Se divorces often leave clients paying far more to fix issues that could have easily been identified and addressed with the help of a lawyer, during divorce proceedings and before final orders enter.
While pro se divorce can work in a few situations, pro se divorces may have terrible long-term outcomes that result in unnecessary fights and extra expenses, which can be eliminated by seeking proper legal advice before signing any agreements or letting any court orders enter.
During a traditional divorce, one or both parties hire separate attorneys. These attorneys are hired to advise their client how to “win” the divorce – win more property, more parenting time, less debt, more maintenance… etc., etc., etc. Two attorney divorces are often unnecessarily combative, expensive, and harmful.
An initial notice or pleading is filed with the court, announcing the legal intention to be divorced. Next, the other spouse is served with the legal documents, provided a deadline to respond to the notice or petition for divorce, and then the parties proceed through the divorce process as mandated by the court and statutory deadlines.
The divorce process typically involves court proceedings, formal discovery requests, and one or more court hearings, where a judge will determine what is fair and equitable, and in the best interests of your children.
Often, in a litigated divorce, the parties cannot communicate with one another. They have to speak through their attorneys. One or both parties may be paranoid by the plans and legal tactics of “the other side.” Instead of focusing on creating a fair resolution quickly, the parties and attorneys spend many dollars and many hours fighting and litigating every legal point, without purpose or intention.
Also, clients rely on their attorneys for advice and are often subject to their lawyer’s availability and the court’s opinions about what is best for them when they cannot agree. Because the parties are not constantly encouraged to communicate through the process of a litigated divorce, sometimes, the lawyers and parties are not clear on the issue of contention. This miscommunication becomes costly and unreasonable during litigated divorce.
Many divorcing spouses are filled with emotions such as fear, anger, and guilt. Because of their state of mind, they struggle to understand the legal issues or to focus on the goal of a healthy resolution. In traditional divorce, clients often assume their attorney will serve their best interests, but fail to consider the financial and emotional costs associated with winning a particular legal argument.
Sometimes, hiring a separate lawyer and involving the courts immediately is in your best interests. For example, if you are in an abusive situation, have concerns that your spouse is moving or spending marital money, depleting or reassigning retirement accounts, changing insurances, or otherwise dissipating marital assets, hire a separate lawyer immediately.
Also, if there is concern the other parent may attempt to remove your children from the state, withhold parenting time, or deny you access to the home or children, hire a separate lawyer immediately.
If you’re not in immediate danger of being permanently harmed, financially or otherwise, we strongly encourage you to consider pursuing a Unified Divorce over a traditional, two-attorney divorce.
Some people representing themselves and people with retained attorneys attempt to resolve disputes by working with a mediator. Mediators are neutral third parties that help negotiate issues and, sometimes, draft the legal documents. While some mediators are attorneys, many are not. Even when your mediator is an attorney, state law often prevents them from providing specific legal advice.
Mediation can be a positive and important tool in the divorce process. However, mediation is only as good as the mediator hired and the willingness of the parties to resolve the disputed issues.
All too often, mediation occurs during a traditional litigated divorce, when people are already entrenched in their ideas about what is fair and equitable, or with spouses coming to mediation, without a thorough understanding of their financial situation, the legal issues, or the long-term consequences of the agreements made. In these situations, the parties may have already retained attorneys and are getting advice about how to “win.” In combative situations, mediation may be of limited use.
While many state courts require mediation before having a contested hearing in front of a judge, if the parties do not understand the legal consequences of the agreements they enter for settlement, or are not well-educated about the issues up for negotiation, mediation can be a costly experience with questionable or incomplete results.
Parties who resolve their divorce through mediation should make sure they know the mediator’s credentials and understand the mediator’s position and ability to provide legal advice.
Unified Divorce provides all the benefits of mediation, without the problems of entering agreements without legal knowledge or clear communication of the parties interested in settlement.
Like Unified Divorce, Collaborative Divorce provides a less litigious, more comprehensive approach to divorce. Collaborative law professionals receive additional training, with an emphasis in mediation and high conflict communications, and extensive training with the financial considerations of divorce.
Collaborative Law may also involve mediators, marriage and divorce counselors, parenting time consultants, and certified divorce financial planners to help people determine how to divorce.
Collaborative Law involves lawyers, so parties can receive individual legal advice. The goal is to negotiate the legal contracts, without litigation, and with a thorough education about all issues. Other professionals, possibly more equipped than the attorneys to offer advice on particular topics, are included. For example, the parties work with counselors to help with emotional issues and parenting plans. Financial planners are brought in to educate the parties about the financial consequences of the divorce. Mediators work with both sides during a point of impasse.
The Collaborative Law process has helped many couples experience an alternative to litigation, while receiving the benefit of professional services, not typically used during traditional divorce processes.
Despite its positive intentions, because it involves two attorneys and possibly many other professionals, some clients have found Collaborative Law to be lacking in privacy, too time consuming and, because so many more professionals are involved, difficult to have open, honest communication about their desires.
If the parties in a collaborative divorce cannot settle matters together, lawyers and the professionals hired as a part of the collaborative team may have to remove themselves from the case. The parties then hire new attorneys and start over through a traditional litigated process.
Concerns with collaborative divorce include:
Teddi Ann Barry, the creator of Unified Divorce, designed the process, specifically to address the problems with the other methods to divorce. Unified Divorce is an evolution and a revolution in family law. As you probably know, the main difference between a Unified Divorce and all other forms of divorce is that both parties hire one attorney.
Through Unified Divorce – before the divorce is final – couples work to communicate through conflict, compromise self-interests and egos, and commit to a more financially safe, emotionally secure, and forward thinking approach to divorce.
If you qualify to participate in a Unified Divorce, the family attorney creates a safe environment for legally and emotionally difficult conversations to happen, with respect and dignity for the individual. Also, you receive the legal understanding for resolution and the successful restructuring of your family.
Unified Divorce is a genuine process, where secrets and non-disclosure are unnecessary, and attorney client privilege is not an issue. Instead, spouses understand their fiduciary duty and responsibility to one another as family and often as parents with obligations to their children that will continue years after a divorce is final.
In Unified Divorce, couples make the family the priority, instead of themselves. They reject the notion that a court and judge better understand their family needs than they do. They take control, confront the conflict and pain of divorce, and work together until the date the court declares the marriage is legally over.
Unlike pro se divorce, the parties to a Unified Divorce benefit from the guidance of a licensed attorney. This ensures their final agreement is legally sound and often decreases the chances of returning to court to dispute the agreements made and orders entered.
Unlike traditional litigated divorce, the parties to a Unified Divorce often experience less fighting, stress, and expense, while confronting the emotion and the role of the emotions in their legal decisions immediately. They focus on co-creating a mutually beneficial resolution for their entire family and committing to a successful future separately.
Unlike mediation, the parties to a Unified Divorce can get the same legal advice as they negotiate their resolution. This element of Unified Divorce is an important differentiator that leads to outcomes that are not only fair, but also legally sound.
Unlike Collaborative Law, the parties to a Unified Divorce may enjoy less expense, less complexity, and far more privacy.
While pursuing a Unified Divorce is not always possible, when it is a viable option, it is the more financially safe, emotionally secure, and forward thinking approach to divorce.
Your future depends on your efforts to consider what is best for your family. Your family -together or apart – needs you to remain cool, calm, and collected in a time of misery, fear, and insecurity.
You need legal advice to protect yourself, your wealth, and your family. You may have not have done well in marriage, but that doesn’t mean you have to fail at divorce.
To find a Unified Divorce attorney in your area, contact us.