Your Advocates In Divorce And Separation
How To Process Your Divorce Economically And Efficiently:
The approach we use in our firm is to try to keep cases on the uncontested track whenever we can since that’s what saves our clients money. But this means that everything has to be uncontested. It means that we’ve got to be able to get both parties to voluntarily sign an agreement dissolving the marriage. This document must include a complete settlement of all property and other issues in the divorce.
The settlement agreement. Once an uncontested property settlement agreement (i.e., divorce decree) is signed by both husband and wife, it is then submitted to the court as an essentially done deal. The parties are not asking the judge to decide anything/everything regarding their lives or their divorce. Instead, they are simply asking the judge to approve the agreement as is. This is a much quicker, less adversarial and more manageable procedure than a contested divorce.
Keeping the costs down. Uncontested divorces generally cost $1,000 to $1,500 in legal fees and can be concluded within a few months. I must stress, however, that every single item of the divorce settlement must be mutually agreed upon.
If there is any disagreement and the other party is unwilling to sign, for whatever reason (whether good or bad, sensible or ridiculous, it doesn’t matter), then you do not have an uncontested divorce. The disagreement can be over something as major as a million-dollar disparity in property valuations or as simple as who gets the family dog or the china, but if it prevents getting a signed agreement, it will preclude an uncontested divorce.
Logjam = contest. If this logjam situation occurs, you are then off and running on the contested divorce track. Contested cases can take years and literally thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees to complete and often turn into an absolute stomach churner for everyone involved.
So if you find yourself or your friends getting divorced, remember that the key is to try to get an agreement to keep it on the uncontested track if you possibly can. Unfortunately, spouses are rarely in total agreement about very much during divorce. If they were, they probably wouldn’t be getting divorced in the first place.
Many of our clients tend to instinctively head toward a legal separation in the common situation where they have begun to experience some level of marital disharmony, but aren’t quite ready for a full divorce. This is an ambivalent period of mixed emotions and half in/half out feelings. The legal grounds for separations are similarly nonspecific – requiring only that the marriage be “temporarily disrupted.” What you essentially have is a temporary break, or hiatus, in the marital relationship. The Court will approve a statutory legal separation period (two years in Hawaii) based upon documents that outline a separation agreement. This situation can in turn sit in limbo for a couple of years. At the end of this time, however, you must then generally go ahead and finalize things one way or the other.
Is a trial separation a fresh start … or the beginning of the end? A surprisingly high percentage of clients come into our office initially thinking they want a separation instead of a divorce. Perhaps they haven’t quite got the heart to go ahead with a full divorce, or maybe they think they should stop short of finalizing the divorce for religious reasons or “for the kids.” Unfortunately, however, it has been our experience that these sorts of reasons do not really prove to be viable rationales for forgoing divorce and relying instead on the separation scenario.
The sad statistical reality is that, for most people, timid efforts at trial separations generally backfire and instead become only a prelude to divorce. If, but only if, a separation is accompanied by a serious commitment to marriage counseling, getting a better sense of (and respect for) each other’s separate selves, and actively working toward reconciliation, then it is probably worth a shot.