May 17, 2016

I’d Like My Divorce to Be Painless, Easy, and Free. Is There An App For That?

(Three Minute Reading Time)

I have been a mediator-attorney working with divorcing couples for twelve years now and have yet to see any solution—whether it’s pre-set, flat-fee divorce services or the Elkins Family Law Task Force’s sweeping reforms instituted to try to make California’s family court system user-friendly to litigants without attorneys—get anywhere near making the drastic changes that would be necessary for California’s divorce process to earn the description: painless, easy, and free.

When it comes to legislators, judges, attorneys, and entrepreneurs trying to make divorce painless there are two inescapable realties: divorce means change and change is stressful, even good change; and divorce is a legal status which means you risk painful experiences and results the minute you enter into the legal process without personalized legal information and guidance.

Why are legal situations always stressful and painful situations? Because judges (or attorneys) have the power to force you or the other party to do what they think is best; and the specter of placing control of your home, your money, and your children into strangers’ hands is painful for almost everyone. The legal system creates stress and pain, because it’s a crapshoot every single time you enter into it.

The professionals most positioned to minimize the painful aspects of divorce are mediator-attorneys. The promise of those services is to keep you out of court, keep you both in control of your agreement and compromises, and hence making it as painless as possible.

In the same vein, trying to make the divorce process easy has brought about many proposed and advertised solutions but I have yet to see one that truly gives anything other than results comparable to McDonald’s producing Big Macs. Yes, it’s technically a hamburger, but in reality it’s more pseudo-food than the real thing.

Think about California’s Family Code. It has thousands of sections and sub-sections, and that information-load is not even taking into consideration new family law case law which is published non-stop all year. Plus an effective family law attorney also has to be somewhat versed in basic will/trust law, relevant federal and state tax law, and even some federal ERISA law. And on top of all that, if the attorney litigates, they also have to keep current on California evidence law. So if you stumble upon an online service offering a fill-in-the-blank, $150 divorce I can assure you that there are tons and tons of things the drafters of that fill-in-the-blank form/agenda, etc. have decided for you or chosen to not even address which may or may not be consistent with what you would want done if you were asked, and could even have negative financial consequences long in the future.

The professionals most positioned to make your divorce as easy as possible, while ensuring you get to make all your own decisions, are mediator-attorneys. The promise of those services is to give you only the legal information you need, tailored to your specific, personalized situation while at the same time preventing you from getting bogged down in a huge, unwieldy, and expensive court process.

And as to free, I will let Justice Pariente of the Florida Supreme Court speak on the subject of free online legal assistance, here speaking about the company EZ Legal Forms: “While I appreciate that there are many individuals in this state who might have difficulty affording a lawyer, this case does remind me of the old adage ‘penny-wise and pound-foolish.’ …I therefore take this opportunity to highlight a cautionary tale of the potential dangers of utilizing pre-printed forms and drafting…without legal assistance. As this case illustrates, that decision can ultimately result in the frustration of the [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][parties’] intent, in addition to the payment of extensive attorney’s fees [to fix the terrible result]—the precise results the [parties] sought to avoid in the first place.”

The reason that most litigating family law attorneys bill $20,000 to $150,000 or more per case in California is not only because they are paid to fight the other attorney or party; some portion of those bills is to pay the lawyer for lawyering. And until the State of California or the United States federal government somehow demotes marriage from a legal contract into merely as social contract, there will be legal complexity in which most people will highly benefit if they have high quality legal information. To simplify the reality of this situation, I will point out: “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

The professionals most positioned to make your divorce as close to free as possible, while still giving you high quality information on issues you need to address and your choices from agreement, are mediator-attorneys. The promise of those services is to give you only the legal information you need, and only bill you for the time that it takes to educate you, while facilitating your making the best decisions and compromises possible.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

She is even-handed, neutral, and unbiased in her counsel.

Unmani chose to practice family law and dedicates herself to resolving disputes with equanimity, respecting the emotional needs and wishes of each party at the table.  She is even-handed, neutral, and unbiased in her counsel. She also provided appropriate referrals to additional professionals. If you choose mediation – (the only sane way) – to complete your divorce from your once beloved, inviting Unmani Saraswati to facilitate is a brilliant choice.

- Mark S.
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