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post-valentine divorce self-help


 heartarrowV According to (which connects prospective clients with lawyers), there is a large increase in the number of people looking for divorce lawyers in the days surrounding Valentine’s Day. “LegalMatch again sees Valentine’s effect”  (Feb. 14, 2007)  The pressure to express love to a partner, or the idealized version of marital bliss that is displayed around February 14th may be the cause. (via LegalBlogWatch) Whatever the reason, this seems like a good time for shlep to collect information on where to go to find divorce-related self-help resources.

Divorce is, of course, a matter of state law.  Click to find links to divorce statutes by state, and summaries comparing the states, from Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute.  If you are considering or plan to file for divorce on your own, you can find out whether your state has divorce forms available by using the links on the NCSC State Court Forms Page (and see MWDG‘s links).  NCSC also makes it easy to find out whether your state judiciary offers Self-Help/Information Resources and Centers.

  • For general information about divorce law (covering topics such as fault, child custody and support, pensions and retirement plans, marital property distribution, and more), we suggest taking a look at LegalZoom’s Divorce Library, which includes a Divorce Glossary, and Divorce FAQ.  In addition, has numerous articles at its Divorce Resource Center (as well as books and kits for do-it-yourselfers). also offers general information on many divorce law issues. 
  • handshakeMF Of course, as LegalZoom correctly says: “If you and your spouse can agree to settle your issues, rather than going to a trial and having a judge decide them for you, the divorce process can be smoother, simpler, and much less expensive. Studies have shown that active participation by the spouses in settling a divorce is the most important factor in avoiding post-divorce conflict and fostering cooperation in parenting and support issues.”
  • Because divorcing is much more a personal, family, and financial crisis than a legal one, you might want to look at this page with links to Other divorce-related resources, and the comprehensive materials at MWDG.

Self-Representation:  Our “should I go it alone” page may be helpful to anyone trying to decide whether to handle their divorce without a lawyer.   In addition, if you scroll down this page, you will find a section titled “Is self representation right for you? Take this assessment to see,” which is focused on divorce and was adapted from Unbundling Your Divorce, by M. Sue Talia (which is discussed below).  The MWDG weblog also has information on representing yourself in a divorce.

 Divorce Mediation:  In our posting “divorce mediation: mutual self-help,” you’ll find a discussion of the advantages of using mediation to resolve divorcing issues.  Mediation can work for couples who seem far apart on many issues, so long as they both sincerely want to split in a civilized manner (to avoid “the divorce from hell”) and want — even if reluctantly — to find a resolution that will lead to a finalized divorce.   If your courts have self-help centers, they are very likely to offer information about mediating divorce and other family law disputes (often called “alternative dispute resolution”).

 Unbundled Divorce:  “Unbundling” means hiring a lawyer to perform only specific tasks agreed to in advance by lawyer and client.  It allows a client much more control over the process and the cost.  shlep has often discussed the advantages of unbundled legal services.  Expert divorce lawyer and private judge M. Susan Talia has written a very good discussion of why unbundling makes sense in the divorce context, at her divorce from hell website. 

UnbundlingDivorceTaliaN  M. Susan Talia has also rewritten her 1997 book A Client’s Guide to Limited Legal Services, with the new title Unbundling Your Divorce: How to Find a Lawyer to Help you Help Yourself (Nexus Publishing Company, 2006, 122 pp.; ISBN 0-9651075-4-X, $14.95), which “is designed for litigants who want to limit the involvement of their attorney in their divorce, and do part of the legal work themselves. It tells them how to determine if they are good candidates for self-representation, how to spot the pitfalls and guard against them, how to find a lawyer to coach them, and where to turn for help.”  You will soon be able to find excerpts from the book here.  For ordering information, contact the author.


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