Let me preface this by saying right up front - this is NOT for everyone. The key is that my situation was friendly enough to still communicate with each other after we split. My ex-wife and I agreed that our kids were certainly worth that! And we still have to deal with one another until they are through college. This is offered as a life experience only and not intended as legal advice. As such, this may not apply to you.
After 25 years of marriage, I decided that I did not want to be married to my wife. We had drifted apart and in the last few years, things were getting worse. We had little in common anymore... including friends. By and large, mine were different from hers. She would go away on her weekends and I would go on mine. Other than our children, whom we both love very much, we were just a couple living together. She is still a good woman, just not one I wanted to be married to. There had to be something else... Sound familiar?
As our situation unfolded, she retained an attorney early on and we began negotiations in earnest within a month of separation. Sure we had our differences! But with an open line of communication available, we (her attorney and I) talked out our problems and came to an agreement within a few months.
I felt confident in representing myself after performing a few hours of research on the internet. And you bet, I was prepared to bail out and get an attorney too. But having done the research, nothing that came up was a surprise at all. I was very pleasantly surprised and amazed. I found that many things were already prescribed by statute as being pretty cut and dried. Child support? Maintenance? In NY, where I live, it was a matter of using past incomes to arrive at an appropriate level. The method and level were already set.
When it seemed to be all sorted out, I went to an attorney that a friend recommended highly. He had an offer of the first consultation costing only $50. for a one half hour conference. All I did was take the agreement to him for review. At the consultations conclusion, his exact words were "It seems that you have a pretty good handle on this. If you can get this signed and executed, you don't need me. Just call me if anything changes." Frankly I was overwhelmed! I had just saved $3,000. minimum! Money that could be used to put MY kids through college, not his!
I don't really know how unique my situation was. Hence, I do credit some luck on my part, as I said in the article summary. But it wasn't difficult.
I have performed a few legal services for myself in the past such as setting up a corporation, partnership, and purchase agreements. I believe that a person of reasonable intelligence can save an incredible amount of money on legal services, if they will do the research and use the preprinted legal forms that so many attorneys use themselves. It helps if you have gone through similar situations in the past. But had I ever had a divorce? Heck no! I had been married for over 25 years.
But here's the catch, I don't have a degree in law either! I urge you to not take this as a slam on attorneys. They have an excellent purpose in society, in spite of the jokes. I had the comfort level that allowed me to proceed beyond what I had anticipated I could. It won't work for everyone. Certainly, not everyone has that comfort level. It worked for me.
As a result of his life experiences, the author, George R Devendorf, was able to save several thousand dollars in legal fees. As a result, Mr. Devendorf has created a website to help others that feel able to represent themselves in certain legal matters. http://www.GotLegalHelp.com offers downloadable legal forms that are the same forms used by attorneys themselves! Whether your issue is Divorce, Incorporation, Last Will & Testament, Prenuptial Agreement, or Bankruptcy, GLH forms are available for most states.