Divorce can be a long, emotionally difficult and challenging process. It can also be relatively easy if you have a complete understanding of your finances, have a semi-cooperative spouse, and are willing to invest some money and effort early on. Document drafting usually occurs twice in a case, first when you file for divorce (the petition and other filing documents to start the case), and again when the case is complete (the general judgment and other documents to finalize the case). Usually many months separate the filing of the petition and the completion of the case.
It doesn’t have to be that way. We have had good luck wrapping up some cases quickly by preparing a “settlement package” that contains the filing documents AND a proposed final judgment. If you have a full understanding and knowledge of the marital finances, and you anticipate agreement on property and child issues, this tool may work for you. Your spouse gets the package, and if they agree, all they have to do is sign. The incentive for your spouse to sign is that YOU have done all the work. The spouse may only need to consult with an attorney, rather than retain one. (We blogged about the difference in an earlier post) While it doesn’t always work, and it is not appropriate for all cases, some potentially lengthy cases can settle quickly with the technique. Some lawyers, including our office, will prepare a settlement package for a flat or fixed fee. If you have a full understanding of your finances, and you and your spouse are close, ask your lawyer about the wisdom of serving a proposed general judgment along with the petition in a “settlement package.”