Divorce is becoming single again.  It is the dissolving of a financial partnership and, if you have children, the arrangement of a parenting plan and financial support for them.  And you can’t get a divorce in this state without a judge’s signature on a piece of paper.  That paper is a judgment, so you need to give the court a judgment that tells how the financial partnership is divided and how the children will be parented and supported, in addition to stating your date of becoming single again.  Maybe one spouse needs support also.

Sixty-four per cent of people who file a petition to ask for a divorce in California do so without benefit of counsel.  That is, they do it without lawyers.  This statistic was stated at the April 2009 Family Dispute Resolution Statewide Educational Institute sponsored by the Center for Families, Children and Courts, Administrative Office of the Courts, of the California Judicial Council.  More startling was the statistic that by the end of their case, 80% are without lawyers.

However, in 1995, Judge  James D. Garbolino, member of the Judicial Council Subcommittee on Family Law, reported that in 80% of family law cases, neither person had a lawyer; in 10 to 12 percent of the cases, one spouse had a lawyer; and in only 11 to 14 percent of family law cases were both parties represented by lawyers.   In 1996, the Family Court 2000 committee said only 15% of litigants going through the divorce process had lawyers.

What are these people doing?  Why are they avoiding lawyers?  I believe it is not just the cost.  They do not want to get caught up in legal games for two years or more.  They do not want to lose control of their lives.  They do not want to grow to hate each other.  

Many people are muddling through the legal system as “pro pers,” dreaded and scorned by courts and lawyers. 

Other people are opting for a sensible method of guided divorce with trained, professional mediators.  Done properly, no one has to go to court to get that judge’s signature.

Meantime, those other people are hiring lawyers to do their worst against a former lover, possibly the parent of their children.  We taxpayers are subsidizing and enabling that vicious behavior, so damaging to children.

We are paying judges, court clerks, filing clerks and bailiffs, and providing filing space and buildings with security and air conditioning and furniture and meeting rooms for lawyers, all to be used for the purpose of one spouse trying to destroy the other while paying their lawyers $350 to $600 an hour.

It is time to stop funding, to stop enabling those family tragedies.

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