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Divorcing is Hard - Especially Without a Lawyer, Study Shows

Marriage is considered the most personal and significant decisions a person can make in their life. Yet, it’s one of the only legal contracts in existence that both parties can’t simply end by mutual agreement without outside approval. As our East Brunswick divorce lawyers can explain, dissolution of a marriage and its terms must be approved by a judge.

Going through it without an attorney may be less expensive in the short-term, but in the long-run, not hiring one can make it more difficult to successfully complete the process and not make costly mistakes along the way.

The average cost of a divorce in the U.S. is about $13,000. You could pay less upfront without an attorney, but representing yourself is a dangerous prospect, especially if you’re dividing property or making arrangements for child custody, parenting time or support. In some cases, the decision to hire an attorney appears to determine whether you’re able to break free of an unhappy union at all.

Recently, Harvard Law School researchers analyzed the success rate of divorces involving low-income individuals who received pro bono legal assistance compared to those who received do-it-yourself advice. In the end, those who received assistance from an attorney were “significantly” more likely to have obtained a divorce after three years than those who had not gotten legal help.

Of the more than 300 people involved in the study, about 25 percent received help from an attorney. After three years, nearly half of those who had been assigned an attorney succeeded in ending their marriages, compared to only 9 percent who hadn’t. Further, 4 in 5 of those who succeeded in getting a divorce despite not receiving help from the research organization retained lawyers on their own.

The reality is it can be easier to break your lease (assuming you and your landlord agree) than it is to divorce - even if you and your estranged spouse are in agreement.

Why Divorcing is so Difficult

One would think the process would be fairly simple when the issue is, “We’re married and we want to be unmarried.” But the truth is it’s tough to divorce without a lawyer.

When you represent yourself (you’ll be referred to as a pro se litigant), you’re going to face tons of paperwork filled with unfamiliar legal jargon and convoluted instructions about what needs to happen in a set window of time. If you make it through all that, you’re still facing a protracted wait while your case winds through the Court system, and you’ll get little guidance and no legal advice from the Court about what to do in the meantime.

To illustrate how difficult it can be, one of the researchers, a professor of public law at Harvard, said he has assigned students to go through the process as practice, pretending to be pro se divorce litigants and with access to the internet restricted to the library. “They have a lot of trouble,” he explained.

The results of this study are a good example of why the divorce process should probably be simplified in several areas, particularly when the uncoupling is fairly uncomplicated.

Until then, those looking to reduce costs and drawn-out divorce battles may consider an alternative like mediation. Mediation is not for everyone, as it requires some degree of collaboration. But in the end, you still end up with a divorce that is typically less expensive and time-consuming for everyone involved.

Call Rozin|Golinder Law, LLC today at (732) 810-0034 for a free and confidential consultation.

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