Oftentimes couples headed for divorce think only of movies like Kramer v. Kramer, where a wife played by Meryl Streep abruptly leaves an unhappy marriage and an ugly legal battle follows as the two fight over their child. The truth is, though, that many divorcing couples have little to fight over. Anyone thinking about divorce should consider getting help from a variety of sources, not just a lawyer.
A marriage counselor could help salvage the relationship
According to the Institute for Family Studies, half of all married people have thought about divorce, but most want to stay married if possible. For this reason, many people find it important to see a marriage counselor before moving forward with a divorce. Many couples are able to work through a turbulent time and move forward with a happy marriage after counseling. Others find it useful simply to confirm in therapy that divorce is the best move going forward.
Mediation may be a better way to separate
A divorce mediator works collaboratively with a couple to help them come to a divorce agreement. Mediators do not take the side of one party or the other, and a mediator cannot make a decision for the parties like a judge would. Instead, mediators carefully walk the couple through all the issues that need to be resolved and let the couple make decisions for themselves.
This process will usually include both one-on-one discussions and working sessions with both parties, along with homework for each person to figure out on their own time. Ultimately, the goal is the have the couple come up with a divorce settlement agreement that they can jointly present to a judge for a quick approval.
Some couples get it done without a professional
Many divorces are not that complicated. Couples that do not have kids can be especially simple. Really, many couples just need to split up the money in their checking accounts and move on. Many states are facilitating this by providing simplified processes. In Maryland, for example, a new law in 2015 eliminated the normal waiting period for couples that have no minor children and can agree on a property split. Many qualifying couples will simply fill out the forms themselves and then present the divorce papers to the court directly.
A lawyer is a huge help
Needless to say, emotions tend to run hot during a divorce. It is often not healthy for the divorcing spouses to try and work things out on their own, or even with a mediator. A lawyer will go into a negotiation intent on getting the best possible outcome for the client, but lawyers are also less likely to get emotional when working towards that outcome.
An experienced lawyer can also be a huge time saver, as working out a divorce agreement can be a draining process. For couples that have significant assets, like a home that one of them brought before the marriage, complex legal theories come into play to help decide who owns how much of the home. Those are issues that a non-experienced person might not be able to figure out without a lawyer.