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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