Can Anyone Help Us Agree So We Don’t Need Lawyers?
Lawyer's fees can quickly eat up everything you and your spouse have saved, leaving less for each of you to live on after the divorce. Think of this as dividing a pie. There's only so much to go around and if both of you give a large slice of pie to a lawyer, what's left for you might be a lot less than you expected.
Even if you don't have lawyers, one possibility is to hire a lawyer to mediate for the two of you before you hire your own lawyers. At a mediation, a lawyer can help you estimate what a judge might do with the four decisions in your divorce. You will have a better idea of the range of outcomes you might get and with that knowledge, you can make a better decision on whether to agree with the other party. If you do agree, the mediator can help put your agreement into a document that a judge will sign.
You might be able to reach an agreement without going to court at all! That means that the two of you paid one lawyer for a few hours of time, rather than two lawyers for many hours. And that means more pie for you!
If you and your spouse can agree to all aspects of your divorce, you can file an agreement along with other paperwork at the beginning of the case and potentially never need to go to court at all.
One possible source of help for this process is to hire a mediator to walk you through the things you would need to agree on, and develop the agreement and other filing papers. If this mediator is a lawyer, he or she would not represent either of you. If you were not able to reach an agreement, would not represent either of you in court.
Do many people do early mediation?
Sadly, no. The legal system is set up for an adversarial process where both parties are represented by lawyers and fight over the assets and other parts of the divorce. Family lawyers make a living by working within this framework. But it is not necessarily right for you. The process itself tends to increase the disagreements and feed bad feelings between former partners.
Particularly where there are children involved, the process of going to court can make an already difficult circumstance worse for everyone involved.
Many people have an idea that a good lawyer has a "take-no-prisoners" attitude toward your case. There are times when this approach is necessary, but often it is expensive and damaging to any future contact between you and your former spouse.
Unfortunately, many people find themselves agreeing to an outcome many months - or sometimes years - into a case that could have been reached at the very beginning which would have saved thousands of dollars and much aggravation.
What's the take away here?
If you can reach a reasonable agreement before filing the Complaint, you can save a lot of time, money and aggravation.
Try using a mediator early in the process - maybe even before filing the complaint - to see if there is a reasonable outcome you can live with that would be better than an expensive and painful court battle.