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What It Takes To Make DIY Divorce Work

skd284550sdcA recent article on Huffington Post caught our eye because it highlighted the dangers of a do it yourself divorce if you decide to use less than reputable sources in filing divorce papers.

The specific case cited in the HuffPo article had to do with a woman, who was selling divorce help on Craigslist as a cheap alternative.

The number went to someone’s home phone, and the woman declined to speak with HuffPo because she said she “didn’t want to get in trouble.”

Wise move. 

There are certainly laws in place that prevent non-legal experts from dispensing legal advice, and if the woman had no legal qualifications, then she would have certainly been in trouble for taking out the ad that she did, and offering the service.

Clearly, the circumstances behind this case were shady from the beginning, and it’s important that anyone interested in a DIY divorce knows what to look for and what to avoid if deciding to go completely “pro se,” or without an attorney, when they file for divorce.

Reputable vs. Non-Reputable

Services like MyDivorceDocuments.com offer you the appropriate paperwork for your state of residence. They can walk you through the basic process WITHOUT dispensing legal advice. All forms are current and up-to-date, and there is nothing to stop you from printing them off and taking them to an attorney for consultation if you are uncertain. The site simply makes it easier for you and your spouse to navigate the legal waters surrounding a divorce.

Craigslist do it yourself services aren’t vetted. They are simply people flying “under the radar” trying to profit off of your own uncertainty.

When DIY Is Right For You

DIY divorce cases work best when they are uncontested and there is some solidarity between the spouses.

If one party “lawyers up,” then it may be in your best interests to hire an attorney as well (unless, of course, you ARE an attorney).

Remember that your judge cannot tell you what you should do, so if you decide to go “pro se” in a contested divorce proceeding, you could be burdening yourself with a major disadvantage.

Ideally, you and your spouse can walk through the DIY process together, conflict-free, or at least work out whatever differences you may have in mediation. Either method makes DIY the cheapest and most stress-free route to go for ending your marriage.

Divorce Mediation: What You Should Expect

Divorce MediationEnding your marriage by a do it yourself divorce doesn’t necessarily mean you part ways without conflict. It simply means that you’ve found another way of handling the conflict that doesn’t require costly attorney’s fees or bitter disputes and hostilities that can go on for years.

If you do feel conflict and still want to file for divorce, the most common workaround is divorce mediation. By enlisting the help of a trained mediator, calmer heads can prevail. But to give you a better idea of what to expect from your mediation, here’s what others have had to say:

The Process

According to Casey DuBose, legal professional at Goldberg Jones, the process for mediation is simple enough.

“You’ll pick a mediator who is usually an ex-judge,” DuBose explained. “During the mediation, you both present your evidence, requests, and demands. You will usually present all this information to the mediator without the other party. The mediator will review it and present a compromise plan to the both of you. You can either accept it or continue with counter-offers. At the end of the day, there will be a legal settlement agreement that puts the final plan down on paper to settle the divorce.”

Mediator Stephanie Vardavas agreed with most aspects of the process, but added that mediators are not always ex-judges. They can also come from the legal and counseling professions. She did confirm that most mediation happens while the parties are in separate locations. However:

“If all goes well, and an apparent agreement is reached, the mediator brings the parties together at the end of the day and reads her summary of the terms of the agreement to both sides for confirmation,” Vardavas said. “At this point it is typical for each side to offer some clarification and/or refinement of the terms. Once it is clear that there is an agreement, the parties’ counsel write it up on the spot and the parties sign it. It is fully enforceable in court, and in the case of commercial mediations (i.e. outside the realm of family law), in some states a mediation agreement has the status not merely of a contract, but of a judgment instead. This can greatly simplify the task of enforcing it.”

Is Mediation For You? 

To this question, California-based family law attorney Matthew Breddan explains that mediation “will only work if you both want to resolve the matter and have an open mind.”

It’s also for individuals, who don’t have much time or money to work through a divorce proceeding, and for couples with children who prefer to not place any additional strain on their little ones.

In other words, if you both want the same thing out of the divorce and believe there are different ways of having your demands met, you’re a good candidate for mediation and DIY divorce in general.

Why Separation Can Be A Terrible Idea

Why separation can be a terrible ideaAs a do-it-yourself divorce service, we often see individuals consider separation prior to filing because they feel that with time apart, dissolution may be avoidable. However, more often than not, the marriage ends anyway and the separation causes additional turmoil that can add years to the recovery process. While nothing is foolproof, here are some reasons why you may wish not to go down this path.

All Financial Bets Are Off

It’s not exactly a given that you’ll be able to catch your spouse hiding assets when they live under the same roof, but you have a much better chance of finding out about it than if they’re living in a separate location. Women especially should be on their guard if they choose to legally separate because it is during this time that many assets “disappear” in favor of the husband.

Changes In Circumstance Can Mean A Raw Deal For You

If you should decide to legally separate and something happens to your spouse — he loses his job, he undergoes a major medical event, etc. — then you could end up on the short end of a settlement. As long as your marriage is still in place, many states bind you to the circumstances and the decisions of your spouse. Under this setup, each day that you don’t file for divorce is a major risk.

Your Spouse May Make Any Divorce Action More Complex Than It Should Be

A divorce proceeding — even a properly filed DIY divorce — can hold you both in place and expedite the outcome of the litigation. When you choose to separate, you delay this action and give your spouse the freedom to move out-of-state or even to another country. When that happens, it can stall the divorce process for months, if not years.

Separation Can Impede Your Ability To Move On With Life

Perhaps the best reason to think twice about separation — especially for an extended period of time — is that it can create obstacles between you and a happy life. It’s difficult to find new relationships or make major life decisions that could improve your life for the better when you’re still tied to a relationship that isn’t getting any better.

In Summary

If the thought of separation should come to mind, first consider getting professional help. It’s easier to salvage something when you can confront it directly. Separation more or less delays that confrontation, and it can put both of you at greater risk.

Marriage And Relationship Counseling: How The Professionals See It

How the professionals see marriage and relationship councelingAs a do-it-yourself divorce service, we too often see relationships ending where one of the spouses would like to work on it and the other just wants out. But while marriage and relationship counseling may be the last thing one spouse wants to do, it can be greatly beneficial if given a chance.

Marriage and relationship counselors get to see this tug-of-war play out every day between couples, who run the risk of deciding to file for divorce. These trained specialists have been kind enough to share their experiences of what it’s like to work with a couple experiencing relationship difficulties.

Robert G. Kraft

Kraft, a psychologist in private practice in Omaha, Nebraska, said that his primary focus is on couples with intimacy issues. “They have often come late in their problems … and have developed difficult patterns and distrust. Helping them to develop trust and vulnerability with each other is sometimes a fruitful path. But there are a multitude of issues couples come with, so every couple brings unique challenges.”

Anita Sanz

Sanz, a holistic psychologist for more than 20 years, explains the challenges. “Trying to ensure that each person feels heard, understood, and respected without the other person feeling like you are taking sides or playing favorites is challenging,” she explains. “Defusing escalating destructive conflict is challenging. Trying to help each person see that there are no ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ in the relationship, just imperfect human beings who bring their own 50 percent to all of the problems or solutions, is challenging. Attempting to get real, honest intimacy going when this is new, unfamiliar, or there are unshared secrets is challenging. Keeping my sights on the ‘3rd client’ and, to me as the therapist, the most important client–the relationship or marriage–is challenging.”

Mike Leary

Leary is a psychotherapist in private practice. He started College Hill Counseling Center, which has been in business for more than 36 years. For Leary, marriage and relationship “runs the gamut” from “delightful to touching to frustrating.”

“Figuring out the puzzle of what they have brought to the relationship is kind of a fun thing but then trying to get them to see it can be quite difficult,” Leary said. “It is hard enough trying to educate and work with one person much less two. And especially when there is animosity so any move the one makes, the other is right there to try and slam them.”

Leary finds “seeing a couple who worked hard yet still, something just won’t click or one burns out the clock” to be a sad experience, and also notes that “when one gives up or a discovery of betrayal has occurred, it can get pretty ugly.”

“But seeing that look and having them laugh and get that sparkle back in their eyes, is very rewarding,” he added.

Whether you’re in the midst of a combative or a DIY divorce, consider giving counseling a try, and you may be pleased with what happens. At the very least, you can leave the marriage with fewer regrets.

Amicable Splits Can Cause Less Church Attendance In Children Of Divorce [Study]

children of divorceA new study, reported this week in the Chicago Tribune, revealed that divorce — even amicable divorces that are often part of the do-it-yourself divorce process — can result in lower church attendance among the children in a dissolved marriage.

Researchers from Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church analyzed existing data sets from the General Social Survey, National Survey on the Moral and Spiritual Lives of Children of Divorce, National Study of Youth and Religion and National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, to reveal that children from amicable divorces were twice as likely as children from intact homes to cease church attendance later in life.

According to the study’s lead author, Lake Forest College American studies professor Elizabeth Marquardt, “Mainline (Protestant Christianity) has done very little and has largely trusted that as long as everybody gets along and keeps their conflicts down, things will be okay. … We’re really trying to upend that view.”

Marquardt continued: “Children of divorce are on the leading edge of the well-documented spiritual-but-not-religious movement … These are potential leaders. As we grapple with more and more people growing up without a married mom and dad, the church can make more sense of that.”

The Difficulties Divorce Can Affect On Religion

We’ve talked in the past on this blog about religion and divorce, and the subject continues to be a controversial one. (Just Google “faith and divorce” if you don’t believe us.) While it’s been well-documented that devout followers of a particular faith have more successful marriages than people who identify with a faith but do not attend services regularly, this is the first study we’ve seen that highlights a growing problem for religious parents, who have decided to file for divorce.

(And if this analysis is to be believed, DIY divorce participants are not immune.)

Parents have a right to bring their children up with a beliefs system of their choosing. But often when a marriage breaks down, it does so because the spouses want different things. Inevitably divorce changes a person, for better or worse, and it usually happens because the unified principles of the marriage have broken down.

The question many religious parents are left with: how do you continue to bring a child up in your faith when the other parent may be, at-minimum, instilling a different set of principles in the child’s upbringing?

The Only Thing Either Parent Can Do

Realize that the divorce will have a permanent effect on the child’s life. It will, for a time, upset the stability that the child feels until he or she can come to know a new norm.

Inevitably, they will go through a metamorphosis in which their own core beliefs will form. They will be colored by it. Nothing is stopping you from continuing to nurture a child in the beliefs system you feel is best for him. But at day’s end, the child will emerge into adulthood, and the best thing both parents can do is respect the adult that child becomes.

8 Bases You’ll Need To Cover As You Prep For A Divorce

bases you will need to cover before going in to a divorceRecently, I was speaking to a man, who was going through his first divorce after more than 25 years of marriage. He was understandably crushed by the situation. His version of events was that right up to a few weeks before he was told she was going to file for divorce, they had still been intimate with one another, both in the bedroom and with the little “tells” in public (i.e. holding hands, kissing, etc).

The news she wanted a divorce and felt “trapped” by the marriage and had felt that way for a few years, left him absolutely floored. Unfortunately, he was in that weird “holding pattern” that so many victimized by divorce find themselves in — he still thought that maybe there was hope, but that feeling was leaving him a little more each day and making him feel crazy.

Divorce is seldom fun at any age and at any stage of the marriage, and yes, sometimes marriages can be saved. But in the meantime, one has to think about their own sanity and well-being. With that said, there are eight bases that need to be covered no matter which stage of the divorce you’re in:

The Legal End

Here, you’ll have to decide whether you’re going the do-it-yourself divorce route or through an attorney. If there are a lot of assets and conflict present, then you may wish to go through an attorney. However, if you think the two of you can keep things amicable and equitable, then a DIY divorce solution can save a lot of time and money.

Employment

There are two schools of thought here: either venture full-bore into your work or take some time off to recalibrate. We recommend time off because it helps you to start confronting the heartache and the other difficult emotions right away. While work can put it off, it ultimately delays recovery.

Financial

If you were both working, then you’ll have to get used to a new budget and income level. Best to do that now rather than waiting around on someone else’s decision.

New Routines

If you don’t want to give uncertainty power over your situation, then you should start a new set of routines right away. Focus on you. Don’t just sit in your house or your new apartment and think about the pain. Get out. Go shopping. Exercise. Find something that makes you happy — preferably something new that you never shared with your spouse while you were together — and live life.

Children

Don’t neglect their needs during this time, and don’t make them feel like they have to take sides between you or your spouse. You may be as victimized as they are by the news that your spouse wants a divorce, but putting them through that tug-of-war turns you into the bad guy and can screw them up for life.

Physical Fitness

If you take a healthier interest in exercise and run, box, lift weights, etc., then you’ll start to see yourself look better and feel better. That will make you attractive to other people — maybe even your spouse. But don’t do it for them. Do it for you.

Attend To Your Mental Health

Seek counseling or trusted friends, who don’t mind allowing you to talk about the situation. Find and attend a divorce support group. Talk to other people who may be experiencing the same emotions that you are.

Get Social

You don’t want to dwell on your divorce with other people. That’s why this is separate from our suggestion to join a divorce support group. You’ll need to enter social environments where your divorce isn’t a factor. Get out and meet new people. See the post-divorce possibilities, and healing will be just around the corner.

What helped you manage the pain and uncertainty of divorce?

Do-It-Yourself Custody Arrangements: How It Works

DIY Custody arrangementsYou’ve heard of do-it-yourself divorce, but have you ever thought about handling custody management on your own? There are currently online services that allow you to do just this sort of thing. As with DIY divorce, it will take a commitment from both of you to pull off, but it can also hold off conflicts before they happen.

Usually, this is how it works:

Create An Account. 

Decide what you want your username and password to be. Set your privacy settings and permissions. Have your ex do the same.

Schedule Events. 

Few services place limitations on the types of events that are allowed for scheduling into the system. The most important items are usually child exchanges, holidays, parenting, vacations, phone time, special events, and support payments.

Track Events. 

Once the events occur, you can mark their status to create an online documentation of how well your custody arrangement is working. What this does is create a record of cooperation (or conflict) that can then be used to facilitate a smoother co-parenting experience after you have decided to file for divorce.

Generate Reports. 

This is where a custody management system can really come in handy. This is where it becomes more than just a series of events on your computer and it becomes something that you can show to an attorney or judge. Reports can typically be run for benchmarks such as:

  • No. of hours in custody and percentage
  • Accumulated expenses (i.e. gas, medical, phone, and travel)
  • Forfeited parenting hours
  • Grandparent visitation (and other relatives)
  • Support payment amounts
  • Delinquent payments
  • Denied parenting time
  • School attendance

One of the most popular sites in this arena is CustodyJunction.com if you’re interested in pursuing this option. By taking a more professional approach to custody arrangements, you and your spouse can hold each other accountable in the best interests of the child. You can also take a lot of the bitterness and emotion out of co-parenting by viewing it as a professional relationship between the two of you, thus neutralizing the negativity.

What To Know About Divorce Before You File

What to know about divorce before filingBefore deciding to file for divorce, it’s best to know what you’re getting yourself in to. Couples often do not have a clear understanding of the filing procedures, the costs, and the possible outcomes. What’s so unpredictable about divorce is that it can be either one of the most challenging things you’ll ever endure or an easy experience that improves your life.

It really depends on the relationship. Regardless of the parties involved, however, knowledge is power. Having it can be the difference between a positive and a negative outcome. Here are some must-have basics you need to internalize before you file.

Divorce Firsts

Divorce is defined as the legal process for terminating a marriage contract. When you decide to go through with it, there will be a series of “firsts” that can be rather difficult no matter what your current relationship to your spouse is: your first time stumbling across photographs from happier times; your first time you frequent a place that was special to you both without having them along; your first time leaving your children in the spouse’s custody while said children are too young to understand why Mommy and Daddy can’t be together. You’ll need to prepare for the adjustment by understanding that it gets easier.

Divorce, Debts, And Assets

During your time together, you will accumulate community property. You will intermingle assets. You will incur debt. You will have separate property appreciate in value, thus becoming, in part, community property itself. The financial aspects of even an uncontested, do-it-yourself divorce can be difficult to work through. When attorneys and conflict are present, it becomes even more challenging.

Still, it’s unavoidable.

Even when you and your spouse can’t stand to be in the same room together, you have to figure out a way to work to an agreeable solution for how assets and debts are divided. In the US, debts often fall to one party (three out of four times) while asset division is nearly equal. How the split occurs depends on a number of factors, such as spousal responsibility, established way of life, and earning potentials.

Custody Arrangements

In about 52 percent of cases throughout the US, one or more children are involved in a divorce. This creates much of the conflict and prevents many cases that could otherwise end in a simple DIY divorce. Spouses can’t seem to agree on who should have the kids, and how often they should have them. What’s worse, kids can sense this conflict, and it wears on them to see Mom and Dad fight. If you and your spouse can’t agree, then it’s best to try mediation or “lawyer-up” and argue your case in court with the aid of an attorney. Either way, communicate two things to the child: 1) It’s not their fault; and 2) Divorcing your spouse in no way means that either of you love the child any less.

Other than these factors, couples also need to know that each state has different requirements and filing procedures. Fortunately, they’re pretty similar, but you’ll still need to check your state’s laws or allow us to handle it for you.

Divorce Sting: When Religious And Federal Laws Collide

rabbi divorce torture stingIn one of the more bizarre (non do-it-yourself divorce) cases we’ve read about lately, two rabbis and eight other men were recently arrested for kidnapping men and forcing them into unwanted divorces. The sting was conducted in New York and New Jersey and first broke in to the national news this month.

 

Divorce Is Torture, But This Is Ridiculous

Rabbis Mendel Epstein and Martin Wolmark were said to be the masterminds behind the operation, which would have included using a cattle prod on “certain parts” of a male victim’s body. Apparently, this type of coercion happens often in Jewish culture, with the two rabbis being allegedly responsible for 20 over the last several years.

“Basically what we are going to be doing is kidnapping a guy for a couple of hours and beating him up and torturing him and then getting him to give the get,” Epstein said in a videotaped conversation with undercover investigators.

(A get is a religious divorce.)

Epstein also said that he had conducted one of these coercions “every year to year-and-a-half,” and that it cost $10,000 for a rabbinical court to approve the action and $50,000 to $60,000 for enforcers to carry out the torture.

The arrests were made after undercover agents wired a $20,000 down payment to Epstein.

Federal Vs. Religious

Religious law gives a woman the right to “sue” in a rabbinical court if the husband is unwilling to file for divorce. Authorities stated that the use of violence was authorized at such a proceeding on October 2. While much of these actions stem from religious culture, the perpetrators will not have an easy time avoiding significant jail time as a result of their actions.

When it comes to the division of property, child care, and other important aspects of human rights, religious freedom takes a back seat to the laws of the land.

As a result, all or some of the 10 men arrested could end up facing life in prison for kidnapping and conspiracy to commit violent acts.

Where do you believe the line should be drawn between family law and religious freedom?

My Spouse Deserted Me: Is DIY Divorce A Viable Option?

my spouse deserted meRecently, a woman, whose husband had walked out on her, was asking what her next steps should be for getting out of the marriage. The woman was interested in filing Texas divorce forms, but wasn’t sure how it would affect her case going the do-it-yourself divorce route.

The answer isn’t that cut-and-dry without knowing more about her specific situation, but we would suggest starting with a conversation. Communicating on how the divorce action will be handled is a vital first step to making sure whatever happens next goes smoothly. Divorces of this nature work best when there is little-to-no conflict between the divorcing parties. If conflict can be handled via mediation, that’s a much easier path than immediately hiring an attorney.

If the leaving spouse refuses to communicate and is not taking any action themselves, then we would not see the harm in filing on one’s own. However, if the leaving spouse “lawyers up,” then it’s a good idea to do the same. Regardless, there are steps that one can take right away to minimize the headaches.

  • Remove your name from joint credit cards. Revenge spending is all-too-common in divorce cases, and in many states, a spouse will be equally liable for the purchases made via a joint card.
  • Get organized. By documenting times, places, dates, and events, a woman can prove desertion, which will go a long way in winning the court’s sympathy and attaining a favorable settlement.
  • Cease physical relations.
  • Take financial inventory. Know what assets are yours, what assets are joint, and what your portion of debts should be.

In the end, “succeeding” in a divorce case is less about who files first and more about who is the most prepared. In cases of desertion, many times the leaving spouse just wants out, and they’re not thinking enough about the legalities. This presents a solid opportunity for the deserted to take action on their own and end the marriage in the smoothest possible terms. In all things, fairness, openness, and a willingness to communicate, are your keys to an amicable DIY divorce.