This article was written by Hance Law Group principal Larry Hance.
I recently ran across an article in the Texas Paralegal Journal, from Austin attorney Hillery Kaplan, entitled, “The Pitfalls of Kitchen Table Divorce.” It’s a good read for someone who is contemplating negotiating divorce terms with his or her spouse directly, rather than going to court or looking at an alternative form of dispute resolution.
She makes some good points about what couples who enter into a “kitchen table” divorce need to remember. These break down into two major categories: not involving your attorney appropriately through the process, or agreeing to something you may later regret, due to being in an emotional state that makes negotiation difficult.
I believe that if couples can work out divorce terms between themselves, it can be a good thing, but it’s such an important, life-changing process that it shouldn’t be done without an attorney’s guidance. I’ve seen more than one couple attempt a kitchen table divorce, only to make a mistake that could have been avoided if they’d involved an experienced family lawyer.
For each client looking for help to get a kitchen table divorce completed, I advise at least one consultation at the start of the process in which I can learn about the situation and let my client know what rights and protections he or she has. I also advise checking in with me during negotiations, before agreeing to anything, to make sure that it’s really the best way to proceed. “Let me think about this and get back to you” is sometimes the best thing to say in divorce discussions.
I’ve seen, for example, people who don’t understand the difference between community property and separate property, and who might be willing to give away something that shouldn’t even be on the table. I’ve also seen people bring in legal information brought in from the Internet that is either from a different state or is just plain wrong, and try to apply it to their situation.
For some couples, the kitchen table route is not only the quickest way to divorce but also the best suited for a couple’s finances and temperament. I think it’s a great solution in some cases – but not all of them. I’m with Hillery Kaplan in pointing out these kinds of divorces have their pitfalls, and I’m happy to help my clients navigate those pitfalls.