A divorce does not necessarily need to be complicated. Perhaps you and your spouse have had a short marriage, no children, and few assets and debts. If you communicate well with each other, there's nothing to say you and your spouse can't just sit down at the kitchen table and draw up the necessary divorce documents yourselves. Attorneys often call this a "kitchen table divorce." It's inexpensive, can take a relatively short amount of time, and has the potential to give you the most control over your privacy and the process. So what are some pitfalls you should watch out for?
- The Courts and the documentation needed can be intimidating: Even if you do everything yourselves at home, you still will ultimately need to file your Petition for Divorce with the Courts, obtain a hearing date, prepare all of your settlement documents, and attend a final hearing where you present everything to the Court. This process can be intimidating for some people. Even if you and your spouse agree on everything, having an attorney or mediator review everything and help you with preparing the documents and presenting it to the Court can ease some of your anxieties.
- There is a risk you will miss something: The legal and financial issues that can come up in a divorce are often more complex than people initially realize. This can make your 'inexpensive' kitchen table divorce much more expensive in the long run in missed or mishandled assets, or increased conflict between you and your ex-spouse because you forgot to address certain issues in your parenting plan. Even if you agree on everything, set up a consultation with an attorney or mediator to help make sure your agreement is complete and that there aren't major holes you are missing.
- It doesn't work if there is a power imbalance: If you and your spouse have a relationship where historically only one party has controlled and understands the finances, or where there has been physical, emotional, or financial abuse, a kitchen table divorce is not recommended. That relationship dynamic will continue throughout your divorce and the party with less power risks being taken advantage of. Having an attorney represent the party who has historically had less power, or having a neutral mediator to moderate your discussions can reduce or eliminate this power imbalance.
Avoid these pitfalls by contacting The Kelman Law Firm. If you and your spouse agree on everything going into the divorce, we can still help make sure your paperwork is prepared and presented to the Court correctly, that you aren't leaving major assets on the table, and that you and your spouse are negotiating on equal footing.