There is such a thing as a Do-It-Yourself Divorce. Not that I recommend it, but it’s out there. As an attorney who focuses on Family Law, Mediation and Collaborative Practice, I discourage this route to end a marriage, mainly because of details that can be missed. My definition of a Do-It-Yourself divorce is one in which you and your spouse are handling the entire legal process without any attorney help. This includes gathering information, making decisions, and completing the legal paperwork and processing that paperwork with the court. This is not something you should be doing without help!
Perhaps surprisingly, there are many people who do indeed choose this path: to divorce without the help of an attorney. Especially for those with no children and little to no assets or debts, and likely a shorter marriage, it’s not uncommon. There are free forms available on the Minnesota Supreme Court website
that can be printed and used. However, in the following circumstances, clearly an attorney would be helpful: if you have children; significant assets or debts; if you own a house and/or land; if you have been married for many years; if one spouse earns a lot more money than the other.
So, after you determine it is a good idea to procure an attorney to ensure the specifics of your divorce, what next? Are you looking for a courtroom battle? No, of course not. Then why not consider a Collaborative Divorce
What is a Collaborative Practice divorce, anyway? The most basic definition requires that both spouses have attorneys and everyone signs an agreement not to go to court. The idea is to settle the matter without ever setting foot in a courthouse. Even in a Collaborative Practice divorce the paperwork would be filed at the courthouse, but the attorneys and the clients would never need to have a hearing or even go to the courthouse. The paperwork would just be filed by mail.
Collaborative Practice divorce is an out-of-court settlement process where the attorneys are hired to settle the case and not to go to court and where other neutral professionals often help on the case to provide neutral meeting facilitation, child-focused input or special financial expertise.
Collaborative Practice means more than just the technical completion of the divorce process. It means a commitment to settling the case out of court. It means using neutral experts help educate clients about the unique emotional, child-related and financial circumstances of their particular case and to explore potential settlement options.
For Collaborative Practice professionals
, being a member of the Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota
means regularly participating in additional training above and beyond their underlying professional continuing educational requirements. We do this in order to focus specifically on the client experience and out-of-court negotiation and settlement.
As with most things, of course, you get what you pay for. While a do-it-yourself divorce is possible, if instead you are looking for a cost-effective, quality process, take a look at Collaborative Practice divorce. You will be rewarded with a high-quality method that includes professionals that take extra care and training to learn ways to resolve cases outside of court and neutral professionals that will help educate you about your specific circumstances and help you explore your options, all while agreeing not to set foot in a courtroom.
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