Divorce is a major life transition that affects every family member and brings about the restructuring of all significant life functions. Many people going through divorce find this transition the most difficult change of their adult lives. The impact of divorce is momentous because divorce affects us psychologically, socially, financially, logistically, physically, and legally. This means that in addition to your legal divorce, you will experience readjustment and shifts in each of these other aspects of your life.
The courts only usher you through the legal aspect of your divorce. When the other aspects of life remain unaddressed during divorce they can cloud reality and foster unrealistic expectations about what the courts can do. To better understand what can and cannot happen in court remember that:
- Court TV shows are for entertainment and do not portray the realities and complexities of the system, especially the complicated rules of evidence.
- The family court system should not be used as a tool for revenge or punishment and this tactic can easily backfire.
- Often those who want to provide you with support and protection become emotionally charged themselves and their misguided efforts serve to fuel the fire instead.
- Sometimes in a divorce case, even if you win in the courtroom, you lose in the court of life. The drain and anger of a high conflict divorce can be emotionally and financially devastating and make you unattractive to a healthier potential mate.
- Every case is different. Even cases that seem similar will play out differently. So do not depend on legal advice from your friends and relatives.
Sometimes, partners reach a mutual decision to divorce. And, sometimes one partner makes this decision unilaterally. In Florida when one spouse says it’s over, it is. There may be hoops to jump through but if someone wants out of a marriage (and tells the court that the marriage is irretrievably broken) the court will dissolve the marriage. However, before a couple can be divorced parenting and financial decisions have to be made and paperwork must be prepared and filed with the court.
THREE OPTIONS. Sometimes a divorcing person thinks that the only way to get in front of a judge for a divorce is to hire an attorney. But, hiring an attorney is just one option. Additionally, you can choose to fill-in and file your paperwork on your own. Or, you and your spouse can hire a mediator who can help you reach an agreement and prepare you for an uncontested divorce.
Option #1 – The Traditional/Attorney-driven Divorce. Hiring an attorney is your best option if you need legal protection from your spouse or if your spouse has already retained a lawyer. If you are unaware of what the marital assets are or how much your spouse earns a divorce attorney can investigate all of these details. Additionally, if you feel intimidated as the result of domestic violence or coercion, negotiating without a divorce lawyer is a bad idea. You can find a lawyer through the Florida Bar’s Lawyer Referral Service -
Option #2 - DIY Divorce. If your situation is uncomplicated, you may want to fill in all of the forms you will need for your divorce and file them with the court on your own. All of the forms are available on-line, for free, at the Florida Supreme Court’s website -
Option#3 - Pro-se/Pre-suit Mediation. The third option involves the hiring of a mediator - before attorneys are retained or any documents are filed. This option is often chosen by couples that want to save time/money and side-step the negative nature of an attorney-driven divorce but still believe that they need the assistance of a knowledgeable professional. This is called Pro-se/Pre-suit Divorce Mediation. (Pro-se means unrepresented (or without lawyers) and Pre-suit means before a law suit has been filed.) Mediators that offer Pro-se/Pre-suit mediation are trained to guide divorcing couples towards agreement, an uncontested divorce, and a friendlier future. At A Friendly Divorce (
MEDIATION. In Florida approximately 95% of all divorcing couples use some form of mediation or negotiation in order to avoid going to trial. If you and your spouse hire attorneys, after your attorneys have completed the discovery process, you will likely resolve your case in mediation with a mediator selected by your attorneys. If you choose a DIY divorce and file your paperwork on your own the court will typically send you to a court-annexed mediation program where you can resolve any remaining issues. And, finally, if you choose the option of Pro-Se/Pre-Suit Mediation you will engage in the mediation process with the mediator you select, focusing on the goal of creating a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) and Parenting Plan, if there are minor children).
Typically, the mediation process takes between two and ten hours, depending on the issues and the personalities involved. Many divorces are mediated in a single session and sometimes the process is spread out over time. The end result of the mediation process is the creation of a customized Mediated Marital Settlement Agreement. This agreement will cover future parenting plans (if there are minor children) and how finances will be handled during and after the divorce.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW. Before you and your spouse decide which option is best for you and before you get to mediation there are some things you should know. The following is our list of the 21 most important things to know before you move forward with your divorce. (more…)