By Erin Levine
There’s a little-known fact that I’m just going to drop right here: you don’t (always) need a lawyer representing you to get a divorce. Totally true. And yes, that’s coming from someone who has been a divorce lawyer for the last 13 years.
In fact, this is so true, I have an entire business based on it. My website, Hello Divorce offers articles, resources and tools like our free Divorce Navigator, which give our users step-by-step instructions on how to navigate the divorce process in California, where I practice. We show our users what forms to fill out, how and when to file them, and lay out what to expect next. Honestly, when you boil it down, divorce is paperwork and documents and forms. In California, divorce costs upwards of $17,000 – $40,000 on average – per person – for people who retain a lawyer. A Hello Divorce Starter Membership is free, so I hope you’ll check us out (tip: much of the content is related to California law but most of the content on our site is relevant to people getting divorced anywhere).
All of that is to say, I know what I’m talking about. You don’t always need a lawyer. What you do need is a good team of three:
Like I said above: divorce is documents. So. Many. Documents. And they’re not always that straightforward or easy to understand, even if your second language is legalese, like me. That’s where a legal proofreader can come in handy. They can help you prepare your paperwork or review paperwork that you’ve filled out, and they can also file and process those documents with the court – or help coach you so you’re confident enough to do it yourself. Someone with expertise who can confidently double check that your work is correct the first time around, before you submit, can save you a lot of heartache and time having to correct mistakes and re-file. (To wit: Hello Divorce offers document review and a legal coaching service, so those of you who want to ensure you are legally compliant, you can book us for as little as 30 minutes.)
READ MORE: How Much Does Divorce Cost?
For those of you out there who do not consider yourself a financial expert, I highly recommend finding a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA). Separation of financial assets is one of the most complicated parts of any divorce. Working with a CDFA can help ensure that you’re making the smartest, most informed decisions possible during your divorce – and can help set you up for an easier transition financially, post-divorce. The financial decisions entered into your divorce judgment become court orders and are enforceable, so working with a CDFA is a cost-effective way to insure against costly financial mistakes that could impact you for years to come, advises my friend Jennifer Taylor, of Square One Financial Services. (And she knows what she’s talking about, because she is a CDFA.) She teamed up with me to write a helpful Q&A, “How to work with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst” on the Hello Divorce blog, that I hope you’ll check out.
It may seem obvious, but probably the very most important person you need on your side in divorce is you. You are your own best advocate. Nobody can read your mind to know what you want, or how you feel. Divorce is difficult, emotionally and financially. But you still need to show up and be present and speak up for yourself. If you don’t, you may leave the process feeling drained, defeated and even angry. So, take a deep breath, remind yourself that you got this, and vow to manage this process on your terms.
About the Author
Erin Levine is a Certified Family Law Specialist and the owner and managing attorney of Levine Family Law Group, based in Oakland, CA. She is the founder and CEO of Hello Divorce, a platform that helps users divorce on their terms, offering curated articles and resources, DIY videos, instructional form templates, flat-fee legal services and mediation. Learn more or register for a free Hello Divorce starter membership at www.HelloDivorce.com. For advice, inspiration and tips to help you navigate your divorce, follow Erin on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.