You know, many, many, many people are foregoing attorney driven divorces now for self-representation. It’s almost a movement. The unfortunate thing, I feel, is there’s not enough legitimate support and assistance for those people who really want to self represent, who really want to have control of the process, so that their actual needs get heard and expressed on the particular government forms, or declarations, or their request for orders. People have a right to take care of themselves in these circumstances, and they have every capacity and ability to do it. We do it every day, day in and day out. For years, we’ve done it through this clinic. It works. People do not need attorneys to get a divorce. They do not need mediators to get a divorce. They need someone to facilitate the process that has a skill set that can manage conflict if it arises, can manage emotions because there are profound emotions. It’s a very human process.
The movement of self-help, where people are fed up with the old paradigm of attorneys drawing out cases, and more paperwork and more filing and more drama, all of that. People are fed up with it. They truly are, and they’re trying to find a way to help themselves. Go Divorce Clinic is here to do just that. To help them control the process of their own dissolution, to help them control the outcome because they’re co-creating it, not lawyers and not a judge. Their alternatives without lawyers? A mediator, perhaps. But many times mediators are lawyers. And mediators aren’t really about, in my opinion, self-representation. Supporting and encouraging self-representation. Mediators are looking for the problem between two disputing parties that they can solve. But it’s still not what I feel people need that are moving through a divorce process.
What they need is to actually have what’s important to them listened to, understood and expressed in the appropriate legal paperwork that needs to be submitted to the court. And that’s what we are doing. We are helping couples who can cooperate self-represent themselves and come to an agreement without attorneys or mediators. They don’t ever have to go to hearing. They don’t ever have to go to court. That makes the family court system very happy because they’re plenty bogged down with people who are struggling with attorney-driven divorces. So, empowering the people to empower themselves is a big part of what Go Divorce Clinic is about and we assist them in that endeavor. We prefer working with couples who cooperate. It stream lines the process, it’s less expensive, it takes a lot less time, it preserves dignity.
If there’s a co-parenting relationship beyond the dissolution, it enhances for a more optimal relationship between mother and father after. That’s what we’re focused on at Go Divorce Clinic. Because we know that’s what’s best for the people that walk in our office, and it’s what’s best for the children who don’t come into the office, who don’t have a voice. This is what people need, and this is the kind of service and the spirit with which they get it at Go Divorce Clinic.
The court system is a very precarious place to put all of the things that are on the table in a divorce that matter to you: Your finances, your children, your emotional well-being, and the relationship that you’re going to have post-dissolution with your spouse. That’s a very precarious place to go. Because all the decisions are going to be made out of your hands by a judge, who’s going to be listening to two other people that are representing the two parties at hearing. If that isn’t a loss of control of the client, the client’s ability to say what they want, when they want, and how they want, I don’t know what it is. Because, by the time their needs get translated through an attorney, and through a judge who’s got stacks of papers he’s gotta read and files, and listening to hearsay, and he said/she said, and trying to make decisions based on that, and what evidence has been piled up, the cost and efficiency, the emotional toll and the outcomes rarely are satisfying for people.
What is the best way for somebody moving through a dissolution to control the process? The best way is for those two parties to cooperate. Because if they can cooperate, and I maintain that 95% of people can. The only ones that can’t are the ones that have an agenda to hurt somebody. They really have an agenda for that. And those are rare, they’re few and far between. Most people are confused, upset, disoriented, and scared… Absolutely. But if they go someplace that doesn’t polarize them, if they go someplace that understands the emotional context, if they go someplace that isn’t looking at these two individuals to see who can win, if they go someplace that can guide them through the legal questions, the asset and debt allocation, the rights and responsibilities, the support issues and structure, and has an experience with that, and is looking at it solution-based, not confrontational, not oppositional, but solution-based… We don’t have a problem here, we just have some issues that we need to find clear solutions to. It’s a different approach. That’s what Go Divorce Clinic is all about.
That’s what really meets the needs of people moving through a dissolution process, and it allows those clients to control the process by participating in it. The only thing they have to do is to cooperate. Which really isn’t as tall a order as most people think, because the family law industry has really spun this to believe that every divorce has to be in a War of the Roses, has to be this huge, ugly thing. “Oh my God, a divorce.” It doesn’t have to be that way, and the clients that move through my office don’t experience that ugliness. It’s difficult, sure. It’s absolutely, emotionally very hard to end a marriage. But it doesn’t have to be ugly hard. It doesn’t have to be bitter hard.
Our vision works, and has been working for years, is a vision where people can come, have a safe place, and be guided through the process and break things down equitably, reasonably, to decide over rights and responsibilities with a discussion that’s adult, that has respect and dignity to it, that cuts out the drama, that does what’s in the best interest of the children. This kind of venue never goes inside of a courtroom, never goes to hearing, never needs attorneys to argue about who’s right and wrong.