By LESLEE J. NEWMAN, Family Law Mediator & Collaborator
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 law and 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 cannot competently 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 who do not know how to address a judge or to present their case. They spend much more court time than necessary and have substantially slowed down court proceedings, and the court’s calendar. It can now take as long as 4 to 5 months or more for a hearing to be set before a judge. Thus, the court’s consideration of important issues like parenting of children, monetary support, or even having the right to put the family residence up for sale is substantially put on hold to the great detriment of the divorcing couple.
It is 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 a well-kept secret that transitioning couples can stay out of court and settle all aspects of their divorce through mediation or collaborative divorce.
The costs of a collaborative divorce typically are a lot less expensive than litigation which before a judge in Orange County has an average cost of about $90,000 and could take more than a year to complete. A mediated divorce is typically about $5,000 to $7,500, and can be completed in about 3 months depending on the complexity of the divorce. Which path should you choose?