How should I get a divorce?

If you’re considering divorce and find yourself overwhelmed with the process, we understand. It’s not easy. This blog post will help you understand your options and how you can save money and time by representing yourself and getting an uncontested divorce.

Don’t Let it get Ugly

Here at Thistoo, we hear too many horror stories about divorce trials gone wrong. We hear of trials that last years for marriages that only lasted a few months. We read statements like these from family law judges:

“Why did parents of modest means choose to impoverish themselves – and their daughter’s future -- for a needlessly destructive three-year court battle?” – Justice Pazaratz, Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Read the full case here.
Average Length of Divorce
“And so, an unnecessary trial was required to determine straightforward issues.  The result, as hereafter set forth, was predictable.” – Justice Gordon, Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Read the full case here.

We see the emotional and financial damage an ugly divorce trial can do. And so we give the same advice to every person going through divorce: Don’t let it get ugly. When you’re considering how to get divorced, going through a trial in court should be considered the absolute last resort. Divorces that go through the courts cost nearly 10 times as much on average according to Canadian legal fees in 2011. Not only that, the average trial lasts over two years!

So, what other option do you have?

The Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce is the alternative to going through a trial in court. This is the way most people end up getting divorced. In uncontested divorces, spouses must come to an agreement on all issues raised by the divorce. This means important decisions like how assets are split or how custody is managed must be made together and agreed upon. Most divorcees formalize the agreements of their uncontested divorce in a separation agreement.  An uncontested divorce is much less expensive than going to court and offers spouses the opportunity to end their marriage quietly and with dignity.

Source: Canadian Lawyer's 2011 Legal Fees Survey

Source: Canadian Lawyer's 2011 Legal Fees Survey

Unfortunately, due to disagreements and heightened emotions, many divorces begin with one spouse threatening a court battle and a separation agreement is only made after long and costly negotiations involving lawyers and mediators.  One of the most important things to remember is that unless you have an exceptionally complex case or have a spouse who is completely uncooperative, lawyers and mediators are not necessary to get a divorce. You can write your own separation agreement! We have helped hundreds of people get through divorce without ever involving a lawyer or mediator. Uncontested divorce gives you control over your own divorce.

My spouse already has a lawyer. Now what?

If your spouse has already hired a lawyer, there is nothing stopping you from representing yourself. Your biggest concern should be keeping dialogue and negotiation civil. Again, don't let things get ugly.

While you may fear being taken advantage of as a result of being unfamiliar with the legal system, there are plenty of tools and resources that can help you. In the end, you should rest assured that the Canadian government has set out strict guidelines for everything from determining spousal and child support to the division of assets. While you are free to deviate from these guidelines (with the exception of child support), if you follow the guidelines you will receive essentially the same as if you would have gone to trial. The only difference is that by doing it yourself, you will save yourself from thousands of dollars in legal fees and a stressful court trial.

See how Thistoo can help you plan for the financial impacts of your divorce here.

We recommend using these resources to educate yourself and to get an understanding of what you can expect from the courts. Doing so will prepare you for negotiating a fair deal with your spouse and therefore help to avoid an ugly trial in court. Statements like the following are what you're really trying to avoid.

“Straightforward issues of spousal support and equalization of family properties were made out to be complex.  As a result, the accumulated savings from a 27-year marriage will have been spent financing this court trial.  It did not have to end this way.”  – Justice Gordon, Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Read the full case here.

We have mapped out the process so you can follow a step-by-step guide to getting a DIY online divorce.

Tips for the DIY Divorce

Tip #1: Put it in writing

While it may be difficult at times to reach a compromise it is critically important to remember that in the end how property is divided and how custody is managed is explicitly specified in writing. The creation of a Separation Agreement is highly recommended since no matter how angry you are or how hard you fight, you will not be able to convince a judge an agreement existed unless it is in writing.

Tip #2: Stay calm

I know its been said, but I can’t stress enough the importance of staying calm while making decisions about your divorce. Emotions cloud good judgment and we’ve heard the horror stories to prove it. Do everything in your power to keep negotiation with your spouse civil. You will both benefit in the long run. And if you cannot come to an agreement with your spouse, judges always look favourably upon a spouse who was trying to maintain a healthy negotiation climate.

Tip #3: Embrace technology

Technology is enabling more and more people to take control of their divorce, and avoid costly negotiations or trials where important decisions are made by the cunning of a lawyer or the interpretation of a judge. While divorce is never easy, it is easier to represent yourself today than ever before. The online personal divorce assistant, Thistoo, brings together experts in family law and information technology to streamline and simplify the process of uncontested divorce.

See how Thistoo can help you:

If you enjoyed reading this post, please  follow us on Twitter to stay up to date on all our future posts.