Can You DIY Your Divorce?
No two divorces are the same. Each divorce has its own twists and turns that makes it unique. However, there are several methods that a couple can choose to process the dissolution of their marriage – Do-It-Yourself (DIY), Mediation, Collaborative, and Litigation.
Today we’ll discuss the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) and Mediation methods.
In general, the best advice I can give you about DIY, is DON’T DO IT!
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Divorce is legally and financially very complicated. Mistakes can easily be made, many of them irreversible. The only scenario that I could envision a DIY divorce making any possible sense, might be in a case where the couple have been married for only 2 or 3 years, have no children, have little or no assets/debts to be divided (retirement funds such as pension plans and 401Ks are complicated to divide and should never be attempted by yourself), have comparable incomes and neither party would be paying alimony to the other. In that case, a DIY divorce could be accomplished quite quickly and inexpensively. Nevertheless, I would still highly recommend that each party have their own separate attorney review the final documents.
In divorce mediation, a divorcing couple would work with a neutral mediator that will help them come to an agreement on all aspects of their divorce. The mediator may or may not be a lawyer, but either way they should be extremely well-versed in divorce and family law. It is critical for the mediator to be neutral and not advocate for either party. Both parties still need to consult with their own, individual attorneys during the mediation and prior to signing the divorce agreement. Here are a few pros and cons to consider before deciding if mediation will work for you:
• May result in a better long-term relationship with your ex-husband since you will not “fight” in court.
• May be easier on the children since the divorce proceedings may be more peaceful.
• Agreements may be reached sooner.
• The cost of divorce may be less.
• You stay in control of your divorce because you will make decisions and not the court.
• Mediation is private whereas a divorce that goes through the court is public.
• The time and money spent in mediation could be wasted if negotiations fail and the couple needs to start all over.
• If the mediator is not experienced or biased towards one of the spouses, the mediation agreement may be incomplete or unduly favorable to one of the spouses.
• There may be concerns about the enforceability of the mediation agreement, if it’s not well-drafted or too lopsided.
• If there is an issue of law it will still need to be ruled upon by the court.
• All financial information is voluntarily disclosed. There is no subpoena of records, so if your husband is hiding assets/income you may never know about it. This is a particular issue if your husband owns a business because it is easier to hide assets and income through the company.
• If one spouse is dominating and the other is submissive the final settlement may not be fair.
• May increase negative behavior of a spouse with a propensity for physical/mental abuse.
• Can lead to increased problems if the parties suffer from of drugs/alcohol abuse.
As a general rule, Mediation should not be used if a) you suspect your husband is hiding assets/income, b) your husband is dominating and you have trouble speaking up or you’re afraid to, c) there is a history or threat of domestic violence (physical and/or mental) towards you and/or your children and d) there is a history of drug/alcohol addiction.
As you can see there are several issues to consider whether a DIY or mediated divorce might work for you. Next week, I’ll be discussing the Collaborative method. Collaborative law is a relatively new concept, but it is one that is becoming more and more mainstream. Stay tuned for that blog post next week!
All content on this site/blog is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice. If you require legal advice, retain a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author, who is not an attorney.