Is the “Kitchen Table” Process Appropriate for Your Divorce?
Some couples can resolve their divorce issues by negotiating directly with one another, without professional help. They may be able to reach an agreement easily, draft the necessary paperwork using forms they find on-line, and file it on their own with the court. Could this process option be right for your divorce?
- Are your issues relatively minor?
If you are separated and have already worked out issues like timesharing with the kids and who gets what from the house, the kitchen table may be for you. If, in your preliminary discussions with your spouse, you find that you are already in agreement on how things should go, then that may be your best and least expensive option. If you have no minor children together, or if you have few assets and liabilities, then this approach may also make the most sense.
- Are you and your spouse comfortable with preparing the paperwork, filing it, and attending the final hearing without an attorney present?
Even to those with minor issues, that may seem like a daunting task. But for some, it is their best option. Maybe you’ve already been divorced, and you are confident that you know how the system works. Maybe you have someone else who has been through it guiding you. Most clerk’s websites have forms that you can download, as well as detailed instructions on how to fill them out. Nevertheless, it is always a good idea to hire an attorney to review your paperwork and make sure that it is correct and that nothing has been left out. Also, one or both of you may be required to attend a final hearing where the judge decides whether to ratify your settlement agreement. These hearings are typically short and not too stressful, but many folks are not comfortable going to court at all without having an attorney present.
Still, the kitchen table may work for the preliminary steps and you can always retain a lawyer as the last step, to review you agreement, make sure your ‘t’s are crossed and your ‘i’s are dotted, and to hold your hand in front of the judge.
- Are you able to communicate openly with your spouse?
The most important criteria of the “kitchen table” divorce is that spouses are able to communicate with one another. If there is too much anger and emotion, this is unlikely. If there is a history of domestic violence or power/control issues, this is next to impossible.
But if you and your spouse can sit with one another, behave kindly towards one another, and negotiate reasonably, a “kitchen table” divorce could save you a lot of money.
- Are you confident that you understand all your legal rights when it comes to your divorce?
Because you will not have professionals to assist you, you may overlook something important. And once you are divorced, it is very difficult to change your final judgment. A judge won’t consider your ignorance a good reason to overturn it. So, only take your “kitchen table” divorce all the way if you are confident that you understand your rights. Remember, you can always kitchen table the easy parts and wrap up with professional help at the end.
Is a “kitchen table” divorce right for you?
FOLLOW OPEN PALM LAW.
About this week’s author Joryn Jenkins.
Joryn, attorney and Open Palm Founder, began her own firm here in Tampa after a 14-year career in law, two of which she served as a professor of law at Stetson University. She is a recipient of the prestigious A. Sherman Christensen Award, an honor bestowed upon those who have provided exceptional leadership in the American Inns of Court Movement. For more information on Joryn’s professional experience, take a look at her resume.