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 the necessary 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 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 often a bad idea. You can find a lawyer through the Florida Bar’s Lawyer Referral Service –> Click Here.
If you and your spouse hire traditional attorneys, your attorneys will engage in a discovery process designed to gather information about you, your spouse, and your finances. After discovery is complete you will likely attend mediation with a mediator selected by your attorneys. If you choose Collaborative Attorneys you, your spouse, and your attorneys will participate in a series of negations with the Collaborative team and reach a final settlement before any paperwork is filed with the court.
Whether you hire traditional or collaborative attorneys, the chances are that your divorce will be settled using mediation or some form of negotiation. In Florida, only about 3% of divorce cases actually go to trial.
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 – www.flcourts.org/gen_public/family/forms_rules/index.shtml. (Start by finding the petition that works for you (Form 12.901). The instructions for Form 12.901 will outline which other forms you will need. Alternatively, you can buy a form packet at the local courthouse. This packet will include all of the forms you need. And, many local courthouses provide self-help assistance – this link will direct you to your local self-help center http://www.flcourts.org/gen_public/family/self_help/map.shtml.
If you go the DIY divorce route, and file paperwork on your own, the court will typically send you to a court-annexed mediation program where you can resolve any remaining issues.
Option#3 – Friendly Divorce Mediation (Often called 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 process is called Pro-se/Pre-suit Divorce Mediation. (Pro-se means self-represented or unrepresented (in essence, 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 we provide Pro-se/Pre-suit divorce mediation and document preparation services.