You do not need a lawyer to get divorced. In fact, most cases filed in Miami-Dade County have at least one unrepresented party. Sometimes both are unrepresented. When one or both parties are unrepresented, they are referred to as “pro-se litigants.”
You can imagine the potential mistakes associated with unrepresented couples filling out their own divorce paperwork. So, Miami-Dade County created a Self-Help Program to help people avoid making a mess. In Miami-Dade, you can buy a packet of forms to do your own divorce, but you must have your documents reviewed by the Self-Help Program before you can file them.
The Self-Help staff will ensure that you filled out the correct form but they cannot provide legal advice or sit with you to make sure that your needs are met by the forms you completed. That means you can still mess up your case. When you use an attorney, it is not the completion of forms that you are really paying for, it is the knowledge and guidance to get you where you want to be.
What if you and your spouse are in agreement and just want some help filling out those DIY forms? Can you both just use one lawyer and save some money? After all, you are both in agreement, right? The answer is a resounding “no.”
There is an inherent conflict of interest. No one attorney can represent both sides. We see this situation often and we must tell the couple that we can only represent one side. Naturally, the other side then gets suspicious and wants their own lawyer.
There is a solution. For this type of case, mediation may be just what is needed. With this approach, you both meet with an experienced Family Law Mediator. The mediator will go through a list of items to ensure that you have considered all of the elements of a Parenting Plan and the financial portions of your case.
Undoubtedly, discussions at mediation will include things that you and your spouse never considered even though you are both “in agreement.” After all, you don’t get divorced each day, but an experienced mediator has seen many problems similar to yours and is there to help as a neutral ally.
The mediator is prohibited from giving legal advice but can provide information and can help come up with solutions. Yes, the mediator can fill in the forms when you are done, but that is but a small part of the service provided.
You don’t have to be in agreement when you make your appointment either. Just be willing to sit down and talk.
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