Sunday, May 1, 2016

Can You Negotiate Your Own Divorce?

The short answer is yes, but. There's always a but. On your own, you may make mistakes on some important issues.  To try to negotiate your own divorce without professional help, you should have only a very limited and simple estate, and probably no kids. 

Depending on your situation, you may want to try the Collaborative divorce process as an alternative to make sure your divorce is handled right and the result is keyed to meeting your needs.

 Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are considering a DIY divorce.

1.  Do you have the information you need?  That would be complete and current records on the finances and information about what to expect regarding your kids.  You may also want some past records on financial accounts if you have concerns about what happened in the past.

    Do you have some assurance that you have the complete and correct information?  Is something being withheld?  Do you have just partial information? Are you relying on what your spouse tells you?  Do you know what you don't know about?

2.  Do you have adequate time, without pressure, to negotiate?  Often, one party gets in a big hurry to finish.  That's often the party who controls the information.  An impatient spouse can make negotiating very uncomfortable if you are doing it on your own.

3.  Do you understand the law and the issues you are dealing with?  Many of the issues are quite complicated and subtle distinctions must by made.  Omissions or wrong decisions can be very expensive.

4.  Are there any issues that your spouse refuses to negotiate?  That can happen if one spouse believes he or she is right or that they might be treated unfairly, from their point of view. Without professionals intervening, one spouse may say that some things on non-negotiable.

5.  Do you feel equal power in the negotiating with you spouse?  If not, you may be in for a rough time.  Sometimes the weaker spouse just caves in to get it over with, and they lose out on things they should have gotten.

6.  Do you think negotiating will be simple?  It usually isn't.

7.  What should you do about the house? Sell it?  Jointly own it post-divorce?  Let one party keep it?  How will the mortgage be paid in the future?  This can be both an emotional issue and a financially draining situation.

8.  Is alimony an issue?  That's often a hot-button issue and often both parties are misinformed about the law on alimony.

9.  Do you know what to do about health insurance? Everybody needs a policy now. Both parties often start out on a single policy during a marriage. When the divorce is final, one party has to get off the old policy and then get coverage somewhere.  Plus, provision to cover the children is necessary?  How are those policies paid for?  There are lots of decisions to be made.

10.  Do you know what to do about Social Security and retirement assets?  These are very complicated and involve what might be the biggest assets.  Mistakes can have serious consequences later in life.

Bottom Line:  Unless you have an unusually small and uncontroversial estate, you should hire an attorney to help you negotiate your divorce.  Keep in mind that Collaborative Law provides a safe process and lots of professional support when you need it.  When you are deciding how to proceed, be sure to at least consult with a trained Collaborative lawyer to see if that process would benefit you.  Good luck!

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