By Caitlin S. Lowry, M.S., LMFT
If the time has come for you and your partner to part ways, the prospect of navigating a divorce can be an overwhelming and daunting task. Educating yourself on your divorce options is the first step. As a divorce consultant, I will describe all of the dispute resolution procedures available to you so that you may make an informed decision regarding which approach is best for you and your family. In the following 5-part series, I will describe each option along with its pros and cons to help you determine whether each divorce procedure may or may not be an appropriate option for you.
The pro se divorce is what Gaies (2018) colloquially refers to as the “kitchen table divorce” (p. 6). No lawyers are involved in this process; rather the spouses decide how to divide their property, share time with any children, and rearrange their finances. The spouses then file the agreement they have made with the court, they appear briefly in front of a judge, and then the judge grants the divorce (Gaies, 2018).
When this option is the right choice for the spouses, it is a cheap and easy process.
A pro se divorce may be a good option if the parties can assert their interest well and there is a low risk that they will try to take advantage of one another (Lande & Herman, 2004, p. 286 -287). A pro se divorce may also be a good option if the parties cannot afford to hire professionals to help them negotiate or prefer unassisted negotiations (Lande & Herman, 2004). Drawbacks to the pro se divorce include its lack of legal or financial guidance. Many people are unfamiliar with the court system and how it operates, and navigating it on their own can be “difficult, stressful, and risky” due to the complexity of legal and financial matters. Gaies (2018) recommends that spouses considering a pro se divorce should consult with a lawyer, even if they choose not to retain one for their divorce.
This may not be a good option if one spouse has more knowledge of the law than the other; one spouse knows more about their finances than the other; or one spouse is aggressive while the other is passive (Gaies, 2018). If domestic violence is or has been an issue within the relationship a pro se divorce is also mostly not appropriate as the party/parties would likely require the legal protection of the court. If a pro se divorce does not fit your needs, fear not, as you have several other options. Please tune in next week, when I will detail the formal litigation divorce process or schedule a divorce counseling session to further discuss all of the dispute resolution options available to you.
Gaies, J. (2018). A clear and easy guide to collaborative divorce. ISBN: 198573818X. (pp. 3-20).
Lande, J., & Herman, G. (2004). Fitting the forum to the family fuss: Choosing mediation, collaborative law, or cooperative law for negotiating divorce cases. Family Court Review, 42(2), 280-291.