by Leslee J. Newman, CFL-S, Family Law Attorney
Today in Orange County, approximately 75+% of the couples who are seeking divorce or legal separation do not have attorneys, and most do not even seek any professional advice. Most couples believe that by finding information on the Internet, they can represent themselves through some of the most important decisions they will ever make in their lives concerning money, property, and most importantly, their children.
Most people do not know that family law is one of the most complicated areas of California regulation. The court system is not designed for couples who do not know how to represent themselves before a judge. If you have to put on evidence in the form of a court hearing or trial, the California Rules of Evidence apply. Most of the time, the self-represented person doesn’t know how to present their most important documents or statements into the court record for judges to consider in making their decisions.
There are so many self-represented people now going to court that don’t know how to address a judge or to present their case. They spend much more court time than necessary and slow down court proceedings substantially. It can now take as long as 4 to 5 months for a hearing set before a judge. This impedes the court’s consideration of important issues like parenting of children, monetary support, or even having the right to put a house up for sale to assist with the transition of residences.
It is clearly a no-brainer that seeking professional legal help is a smart move, and attorneys who can help you avoid going to court altogether are indispensable. Unfortunately, it is well-kept secret that transitioning couples can stay out of court and settle all aspects of their divorce through mediation or collaborative divorce. This can often happen in just 3 short months.
The cost of a mediated divorce is typically about $5,000 depending on its complexity. A collaborative divorce is much less than the average cost of a typical divorce trial before a judge in Orange County which could cost a whopping $90,000 or more, and could take more than a year to complete. Which path should you choose?