When smart people divorce, they don't need a lawyer. They may want a lawyer, but they don't necessarily need one. It is my contention that when two intelligent, reasonable-minded individuals both want to end the relationship, it can be successfully accomplished as a DIY (do it yourself) or with the assistance of a family law mediator, therapist and/or financial analyst. Using a non-adversarial setting, these professionals can guide, offer assistance as needed and answer questions that arise during the journey. One of the many benefits of taking this approach includes a division of the marital estate between just the two individuals, having eliminated the portion traditionally divided amongst multiple lawyers for legal fees and expenses. Another benefit smart people enjoy when they divorce without litigating is that it tends to lessen the negative impact on their children, who aren't forced into the middle of a legal battle.
Who are these smart people? In recent days, "conscious uncoupling" has surfaced as a new term of art to describe married individuals, who want to go their separate ways without tearing each other apart. It embodies a more peaceful approach to the divorce process, embracing a non-litigious methodology. Unwinding a relationship requires a careful undoing of emotional, physical and financial connections, and must be performed with extreme caution to achieve two intact individuals in the end.
In just a few weeks, family lawyers all over the country will become inundated with phone calls, text messages and emails from people seeking information about divorce. It's inevitable. Like the flu, divorce is often a seasonal event. And, the post-holiday season is typically the busiest time of the year. It's a long-time trend that couples, who have decided to call it quits, look to the new year for their fresh start.
What I find intriguing, however, is the belief shared by most couples that you need a divorce lawyer to get a divorce. Why is this belief so pervasive? We all know that you do not need to hire a matrimonial lawyer to get married. So why is it so uncommon for couples to get a divorce without retaining a divorce lawyer? The answers range from absolute distrust of your partner to fear of the unknown.
There exists a narrow group of smart, rational and reasonable individuals, who simply want to get divorced and move towards their new futures without destroying their pasts. Below are the reasons why smart people don't need a lawyer to get divorced:
1. Family law is mostly form-based. Most forms required for filing for divorce are available online at no cost, and are comprised mostly of fill-in the blanks. Templates such as a Marital Settlement Agreement or Parenting Plan literally guide couples through each document, just like completing a patient history form in a doctor's office (Just google your state and family law forms to see what you can find.)
2. Assets and liabilities are what they are. The financial affidavit form guides you through the steps to disclose your marital and individual assets and debts.
3. Marriage counselors or therapists are in a better position than a family lawyer to help couples resolve disagreements over issues like timesharing (custody) with the children or equitable distribution of their marital estate. Moreover, the counselor or therapist is less likely to worsen the situation by antagonizing it.
4. Child support is formulary. Again, your state's Guidelines walk you step-by-step through calculating child support.
5. Smart couples can work together... just one last time... to figure out what their own futures post-marriage look like, without the hungry hands of lawyers digging into their wallets.
Ideally, smart couples seeking a smart divorce methodology should work with a certified family law mediator and financial analyst to assist them throughout the process and act as a guide as they begin their journey. The end product (the divorce) will ultimately be the same, but the process will be infinitely easier, more peaceful, and less costly than a litigated divorce. The key is that it takes two to tango... both individuals need to want to approach their divorce in this manner for the method to work properly.