According to history.com, in 1643, the first record of a legal divorce in the American colonies, Anne Clarke of the Massachusetts Bay Colony was granted a divorce from her absent and adulterous husband, Denis Clarke, by the Quarter Court of Boston, Massachusetts. In a signed and sealed affidavit, Denis Clarke admitted to abandoning his wife, with whom he had two children, for another woman, with whom he had another two children. He also stated his refusal to return to his original wife, thus giving the Puritan court no option but to punish Clarke and grant a divorce to his wife, Anne.
The tradition continues ... family law document preparers know that inquiries and requests for divorce assistance spike during January -- even to this day, nearly 400 years after the first recorded divorce. The reasons consumers most frequently give for their choice of month, is that they did not want to upset the children, the in-laws, or life in general over the holidays. They wait, sometimes biting their tongues and holding their breath until Christmas is long gone and the New Year's party is well over before making the move to file for divorce. The decision to file for divorce may have been made months earlier.
Filing for divorce is a stressful time for all involved. There are almost always emotional issues, financial issues, and property issues to be sorted our and worked through. Here are some do's and don't's from someone who has been through it personally a time or two; and prepared documents for hundreds of divorces.
- Try to settle as many issues amicably as you possibly can.
- Tell the children of the pending divorce in a reasonable and loving way, assuring them that you will always be a family -- its just that Mom and Dad will no longer be married.
- Cherish the memories. Even if the love has died, remember that you loved this person once.
- Take care of yourself by making sure your support system is intact - whether it is your friends, a formal support group, a counselor, or divorce coach.
- If there are children of the marriage, be especially aware that the children are experiencing as much or more upheaval than you are due to the pending divorce.
- Resist the temptation to involve yourself in a new relationship too soon.
- Allow yourself to be pulled into needless emotional turmoil.
- Let your guard down completely. Even though you want it to be amicable, that doesn't mean that you need to be careless.
- Manipulate the children to hurt your soon to be ex.
- Hide money. Be truthful about your finances, and expect the same from your spouse.
- Say unkind things about your ex in front of the children, other family, or friends.
- Don't dwell on blaming your spouse, the blame game doesn't help anything.
Document preparers may not provide legal advice or representation. Obvious as it sounds -- document preparers prepare documents. We can also give legal information and explain procedure. Most family law document preparers are also good listeners and don't mind hearing their customer's stories. .
Sometimes consumers ask whether they need an attorney.
There is more than one answer.
- If both parties are in complete agreement and understand exactly what they're agreeing on, then there may be no need for an attorney.
- If someone thinks they need an attorney, then they probably do. If the customer is afraid of going to court without an attorney; they expect nothing but a fight; feels bullied by their spouse; their spouse has an attorney; or if English is their second language are all good reasons to retain an attorney.
- A pro se litigant can always retain an attorney if the proceedings become contentious. Family law attorneys are specifically allowed to unbundle their services, they are not required to take on the entire case. Document preparers charge on average between $200-$300 to prepare divorce documents, usually as a flat fee. Attorneys hourly rates may well be $200-$300 per hour.
The Florida Association of Legal Document Preparers has member document preparers throughout the state, many of whom prepare divorce documents. To locate a document preparer in your area for assistance, look through our member directory or call 800-515-0496. We're here to help.