Forty years ago divorce and a lawyer came together like chocolate cake and a glass of milk. Hiring a lawyer was the second step in the divorce process after one spouse told the other the marriage is over.
That’s no longer the case. A divorcing couple in agreement about the terms and conditions of their divorce – that is, the division and distribution of the marital estate, alimony and child support and visitation – can use mediation or collaborative divorce.
And a couple married for a short time, with a small or no marital estate, no children, and most important no disagreements about the terms and conditions of the divorce, can file pro se. That means one of the spouses completes the necessary paperwork and the other spouse agrees. No lawyer need be involved.
The key in mediation, collaboration and pro se divorce is agreement. There must be no issue in dispute, nothing to contest, nothing to argue and fight about.
Sometimes, a lawyer must be hired. When one spouse hires a lawyer, the other spouse must do the same because no one should try lawyer pro se against an attorney. Moreover, when the other factors – abuse, military service, hidden assets, mental illness, incarceration – complicate the case, the services of a lawyer may be inescapable.
When people divorce pro se, one spouse may ask a lawyer to look over the paperwork and check it for accuracy. This, however, is not the same as hiring a lawyer as an advocate.