You’ve agreed to get a divorce – or at least have agreed to have a friendly discussion. Now what?
Kitchen Table Approach
This is a direct negotiation between the parties. It can work well if the parties are at a high functioning point in their lives and can effectively communicate with each other. If you are able to set down with your spouse “at the kitchen table” or other agreeable place and reach an agreement as to how to divide the property acquired during the marriage, decide where the children will live and how they will be supported, this agreement can be taken to an attorney who will file the proper papers with the court, prepare the Decree containing the agreements and conduct the final hearing where the court grants the divorce. The attorney can only represent only one party though. The other party would be given a chance to approve the Final Decree before it is entered.
So what is the down side? You may face unfriendly courts and bad results. The courts are increasingly burdened with a number of people who cannot afford attorneys, are not eligible for legal aid, and attempt to represent themselves. Many of these are people who have obtained legal documents from various on-line websites in an effort to handle their own divorce. This is risky because these forms are not tailored to the requirements of the Texas Family Code and may well be rejected by the Judge.
Using One Lawyer to Fix the Problem. If the parties have reached an agreement, then they can go to just one lawyer to handle the paperwork. One of the parties will have to agree to be the “client” and the other will have to sign a waiver of representation. This means that they waive the requirement of being formally served with the papers and agree that a divorce decree which they have approved may be entered. The lawyer then goes to court after the sixty day waiting period, asks certain questions to authorize the court to grant the divorce, then presents the Agreed Decree to the court to be signed.
Early Intervention Mediation
When the parties are unable to negotiate their own agreement regarding their property and children, they can work together with a neutral mediator either before or after the divorce is filed. The mediator should be an experienced in family law and the mediation process. The parties meet with the mediator in a series of two hour sessions until an informal settlement agreement is reached and signed by the parties. (Hammerle Finley’s retired family court district judge Craig Fowler has mediated family law cases for the past 30 years). Either party may be represented by counsel during the process but the attorney(s) do not appear at the sessions. When a settlement is reached, either party may hire an attorney to finalize the divorce. If a divorce has already been filed by one of the parties, their attorney can reduce the agreement to a Final Decree and present it to the court for entry. This process is another way that a divorce may be obtained without both parties hiring lawyers. However, there will be a cost for the mediator’s time which is shared equally by the parties.