Do I Need a Divorce Lawyer?
I’ve been a divorce attorney for almost 22 years. My favorite responses to this question is:
One: “Nah. Youtube it”.
Two: “No. But do we really NEED anyone or anything?”
Three: “No, but you don’t need a surgeon to do your own brain surgery either.”
Which brings me to paranoia in divorce. I’ve had several potential clients who frantically call my office after being served with divorce papers.
“I thought it was amicable! I just spoke with her yesterday! Am I in trouble? Why am I being served?”
It upsets me when this people “get served” out of the blue because process of service is a disconcerting experience. Imagine getting home from work, coming out of your car, and being accosted by a random stranger who hands you documents, says “You’ve been served”!, then leaves?
Notice of Acknowledgment
If you and your spouse are on amicable terms, please do NOT ambush someone with a process server. It is sufficient to have someone over the age of 18 mail a copy of the Petition, along with a FL-117 (Notice of Acknowledgement of Receipt) – and have them SIGN for the papers.
It Doesn’t Have to Be So Complicated
I cannot understand why legal documents have to be so complicated.
Divorce is either default, uncontested, or contested.
Unless your divorce is contested, stop your paranoia and hire a mediator.
Default By Default
Default is when one person files (Petitioner) and the other does not respond (Respondent).
When Petitioner files and seeks requests from the Judge such as “I want sole legal and physical custody, $10,000/mo spousal support, $8,000 child support, and 100% of all assets and 0% of debts”, and then properly SERVES the other side so the other side has an opportunity to respond, and the Respondent after being PROPERLY SERVED does not respond, the Petitione can then request Entry of Default against the Respondent, and thereafter request a Default Judgment.
The operative term in obtaining a default is “properly served”.
In the USA, litigants are entiteld to “Due Process”, which is defined as “fair treatment through the normal judicial system”. Every person who goes to court has a duty to provide fair notice to the other side, so THEY have a chance to respond and defend themselves.
Due Process is mentioned in both the 5th and 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, and it relates to fair treatment under the law. Due Process prevents courts from randomly issuing orders against people who have not been properly noticed that there is a case against them in court.
Thus, before you can obtain any ORDERS against someone, you need to have properly notified them that there is a case against them, and give them a chance to speak up.
An uncontested divorce is when BOTH parties appear in the case, and reach a settlement agreement. Our offices processes uncontested divorces in mediations. If you and your spouse are able to discuss the terms with a neutral third party, I highly recommend divorce mediation. Divorce mediation is a very grown-up, mature way to resolve your disputes.
The third type of case in a divorce is the CONTESTED case. This is when you and your spouses are NOT able to agree on issues, and choose to hire lawyers to fight over them for you.
Why are divorce cases contested? Because trust is broken and both people are emotional.
Emotional people cannot agree on simple things.
Given that these people already don’t trust each other, I believe it is our MORAL DUTY as family lawyers to NOT exploit this known fact. Unfortunately, there is a breed of pitbull lawyers out there that purposely pit paranoid people against each other to make money. Avoid!
Remember Hanlon’s Razor
Hanlon’s razor is a rule that states: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”
In other words: shit happens not because people have bad intentions, but because they didn’t think it through.
Instead of thinking everyone is out to get you – RELAX. People are just dumb. If you and spouse are on good terms, get on the phone together with a good divorce mediator.