Other Options Include Litigation and Do It Yourself
Litigation: A Path to Conflict
Litigation, sadly, has been the traditional divorce process for years. Both parties hire attorneys, who provide legal advice and represent their client in negotiations and court hearings. Each attorney advocates positions, often adversarial, based on the personal wants, needs and viewpoints of their client. A couple begins to communicate mainly through their attorneys, rather than directly with each other. Misunderstandings can quickly multiply this way.
The process may involve the use of formal legal procedures, known as “discovery,” to obtain financial and other relevant information. Each party may also hire experts (an expensive process) to support their positions. These experts may include psychologists, real estate and personal property appraisers, business valuation specialists, accountants and others.
Most litigation divorces are eventually settled, but substantial time and money have been needlessly sacrificed. Negative emotions may take years to resolve, and often never are. A couple is often dissatisfied with the outcome, and they return to court in the future to change the outcome or resolve disputes. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Pro Se Divorce: Do It Yourself
In a Pro se divorce, the parties represent themselves and do not hire attorneys. They proceed on their own to draft and file the necessary court documents, including:
- the summons and petition
- financial disclosure statements
- any motions
- the marital settlement agreement, if any
- and the final judgment of divorce.
The divorcing husband and wife must either work out an agreement together or present their legal disputes to the court. If an issue is not agreed upon, the parties have to be prepared to act as their own representatives, meaning they must call witnesses, prepare exhibits, ask questions of the opposing party, and tell the court why their request for specific orders should be granted, within specific procedural requirements.
Pro se divorce generally works well when the parties agree and the issues are simple, such as in cases with little property and no children.