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Frequently, people who are unhappy in their marriages wait until after the holiday season to move ahead with the dissolution of their marriage. If you are one of those folks who have made this decision you know it is not easy to make that first move. Sometimes people struggle for years in unhappy relationships before they decide it is time to end the marriage.

How to move ahead? Find a good lawyer and therapist. They will be part of your team as you begin the arduous process of untangling your marriage. These professionals will help and support you through the process- making sure that when your divorce is final, you are as secure as you can be-both emotionally and legally.

No doubt about it- divorce is a major life changing decision. It is a stressful time- you, your spouse and your children will be impacted emotionally, financially, practically and legally.

So, it is surprising when so many couples decide to proceed with the legal uncoupling without legal counsel! Here are some reasons people choose to represent themselves-

  1. They truly think they are saving money.
  2. They trust each other to be honest.
  3. They don’t think they have enough assets to warrant the cost of a lawyer.
  4. They want to avoid acrimony.
  5. They are afraid of conflict.
  6. They feel threatened by their spouse. ( all the more reason to hire a lawyer)
  7. One or both parties want to rush through the process.

You can “do it yourself” but based on any of the above rationales, well, that’s faulty thinking. Certainly, there are do-it-yourself car repairs, home projects even hair color. If you have ever had a DIY project go awry, you know the cost of fixing the mistake is much, much more expensive, time consuming and aggravating than it would have been to simply hire a professional in the first place.

Going back to court to undo or enforce your agreement is much more expensive than doing it right the first time. Furthermore, many decisions (or omissions) CANNOT be undone. Consider this; when lawyers get divorced THEY hire another lawyer to represent them! Even with their knowledge base and experience, they understand the emotional issues cloud making wise legal decisions.

Why, as a therapist, am I offering this information? Over the years, I have worked with many clients helping them get through the emotional aspects of divorce. What I have learned is this- your emotional and financial well-being are unfortunately linked to your legal process. Without a good resolution to your legal entanglements, your emotional life is bound to be negatively impacted. Take care now and avoid problems later.

“What could go wrong,” you ask?  Well, that is part of the problem-you aren’t aware of all the nuances and small print. You also aren’t aware of all your rights, those of your children and how to protect them.

Do you know the answers to the following questions? They are just a smattering of the technical and complicated nuances pertinent in a divorce process.

Housing

  • What a quit claim deed and why it is necessary to file one if you are the party keeping the house?
  • Did you know homeownership (name on deed) is different than having your name on the mortgage?
  • Did you know that if you sign over the house, and don’t have your name taken off the mortgage that YOU are still liable for payments? Did you know the only way to be free of the debt is for the spouse who is staying in the house to refinance it solely in their name?

Credit

  •  Did you know that leaving your name on the mortgage impedes your ability to obtain your own credit including car loans and a mortgage for yourself?

Pensions

  •  Do you know what a QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order) is or how to draft one? Do you know why this is important with regard to protecting /collecting your share of the pension(s)?

Alimony

  •  Did you know if you don’t get alimony at the time of the divorce you can never go back to the court and ask for it post-divorce? Many low income earners don’t ask for alimony when they would be awarded some by the court.

Property Settlements

  •  Did you know most know property settlements are set in stone and cannot be changed after the divorce except with mutual consent? For example, if you are not specific/detailed and you fail to mention you want to keep the stamp collection you have had since you were a child, then you are leaving it up to your EX to decide if you ultimately get it.

Children

  •  Do you know what post majority educational support is or why you want the court to retain jurisdiction over the issue? You may be stuck with the whole college or vocational education bill if you don’t understand what this means.

Overwhelming, huh? Yet, still concerned about the cost? Here’s some information that will make it easier to get the representation you need and still keep your costs under control: Effective January 1, 2014 lawyers are allowed to do limited scope representation in family matters. This means you can hire a lawyer to draft your divorce agreement or help negotiate a fair settlement without spending too much money. You also can conserve funds by using mediation or collaborative divorce. *

Divorce is not just a single event- it is a process that will impact you long into the future. To insure the outcome is as positive as possible, work with the professionals. Their support and knowledge will help you move forward without continued aggravation, regrets and resentment.

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 Here’s some links that you may find useful. *

Pursuant to Practice Book Section 3-8 (b), a Limited Appearance Pilot Program has been established for all family matters and family support magistrate matters statewide. The pilot program commences Monday, January 6, 2014.  An attorney may agree with a client to represent him or her for a specific event or proceeding in any family matter or family support magistrate matter.   To view the full text of the notice from the Honorable Patrick L. Carroll III, Chief Court Administrator, please click on the following link:  http://www.jud.ct.gov/external/news/press366.htm.

To view a list of Frequently Asked Questions about Limited Scope Representation, click on the following link: http://www.jud.ct.gov/faq/limited_scope_rep.htm.

To view the new Judicial Branch informational pamphlet, Hiring a Lawyer for Part of Your Legal Matter (Limited Scope Representation) that provides additional information about Limited Scope Representation, click on the following link: http://www.jud.ct.gov/Publications/CL123.pdf.

*This information pertains to Connecticut law and will vary from state to state.

 

© 2013 Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Farmington, CT since 1986. She is the author of the award winning From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce now available in Kindle format for $9.99 as well as in paperback.

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