Ellen Squires, Attorney-Mediator, The Center for Out of Court DivorceDivorcing without a lawyer is a path that many couples choose to take. In fact, according to IAALS, at least one of the parents in 80 to 90 percent of family law cases self represent, or go “pro se”.

There are many reasons why couples may choose to divorce without a lawyer. It can be expensive, particularly at a time when families can least afford additional expenditures. The very act of hiring separate divorce attorneys might also feel adversarial, raising concerns about increased conflict.

It’s important to know that choosing to go pro se can also present challenges for families seeking separation and divorce. The court process can be nuanced and complex, and families who are already facing emotional stress can find themselves frustrated and overwhelmed. Without having divorce attorneys, parents are typically left alone to navigate the court system, legal paperwork and ongoing conflict with their spouse alone.

An Alternative to Pro Se Divorce

The Center for Out-of-Court Divorce (COCD) offers another option – one we describe as a helpful hybrid. Our Alternative Dispute Resolution model aims to be a one-stop-shop for divorcing families, helping couples with legal and financial education, as well as services like family counseling, mediation and co-parenting support.

Although the COCD model can be considered a form of divorcing without a lawyer, your COCD support team does include an attorney mediator. We support clients with legal education, working hand-in-hand with our clients to facilitate the completion of all necessary paperwork, and follow all of the steps required to legally finalize the details of the divorce.

Legal Separation and Divorce Process at COCD

We start by going over the relevant statutes pertaining to a dissolution of marriage action. We then share with clients what they can expect at mediation, and what the role of their attorney mediator at COCD will be. Legal education is followed by a pre-mediation session with the clinical team to identify and discuss the big issues that are often emotionally charged. After mediation is complete, we put together a comprehensive agreement that is tailored specifically to that family addressing in detail how the family will function in its new configuration.

COCD offers comprehensive services that cover all aspects of separation and divorce, from helping you navigate the decision to separate or divorce all the way through to providing post-decree support. Clients are welcome to reach out and get consultation and/or representation from an individual divorce attorney at any time throughout the process.

There are a variety of factors to consider when pursuing separation and divorce for your family. COCD’s approach benefits clients because we offer services that go beyond just legal support, provide an interdisciplinary team that follows the unique needs of each family throughout the process, and offer a flat rate package of services that allows clients to pick and choose the resources that best meet their family’s needs.

The process of separation and divorce can be daunting. Choosing a model such as that which the COCD offers will help couples consider factors they might not otherwise anticipate, manage conflict and receive support every step of the way so that the outcome is in the best interest of their entire family and their future.

By: Ellen Weston Squires, COCD Attorney Mediator

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