If you haven’t been through it yourself, you certainly know of somebody who has been  –  an awful divorce. The nightmare of two people, who at some point decided not wanting to share space and time anymore and then went down a spiral of no return. Not only did emotions run array, but finances and credit history got destroyed in the process as well. Incidentally, there are always two winners, too  –  their respective attorneys.

People make the devastating mistake to consult an attorney in the early stage of a divorce, a stage when they are not emotionally ready to make any rational decisions, perfect prey for savvy attorneys with their own financial agenda. Of course, there are a few noble attorneys interested in preserving a family’s sanity and financial wellness, but they are hard to find. Unfortunately too many couples still get married without a pre-nup.

Generally, after consulting an attorney, especially in the initial stage of rage or outrage, there is often no way to return, review, forgive, regroup, or whatever it may take. The attorney will have made a laundry list of motions to file, things to do, demands to make,  that will infuriate the other party to shop for a “meaner”, more expensive attorney, to “get back” at him or her, to protect assets, at least one is let to believe that certain assets need protecting, when existing laws already do that, but you don’t hear that during the initial visit. All you hear during that first, fatal visit is “this is my retainer” and “this is “our” plan of attack”.

Before embarking on this lengthy, life altering trip it is important to understand that there are four distinct phases of divorce  –  Emotional, Social, Financial, and Legal. So often during those early phases of divorce consideration couples should have a chance to return to married life, after cooling down, reconsidering, forgiving, and/or consulting with an educated, experienced counselor. Revisit your marriage vows. Think of your children and their upbringing. Make allowances for indiscretions, not condoning them, of course, but dealing with them, set new or adjusted ground rules. As bizarre as this may sound, a little indiscretion can go a long way for an alpha male or a female you needs a little pizzazz and admiration in her life.

If one or both indeed chose to proceed with a divorce, the legal phase should be the last stage in the proceedings and should be the one, the only stage in which to consult with an attorney. Even then the internet has made it easier to prepare the necessary legal papers by yourself as your own attorney, known as ‘Pro Se’ filings.

There are many alternatives, many professionals, who are trained to seek amicable, intelligent, constructive solutions, to help you through phase one to three. They are therapists and counselors, priests and other clergy, advocates and mediators, financial consultants, etc. Again, keep in mind, there are good ones and bad ones in those professions as well. Ask around, request a free initial consult to get a feel, if you could work with a respective individual or ask for references.

Not until Phase Four do you really need an attorney. If both of you paid attention to your “alternative sources” you can actually get away with using only ONE attorney, i.e. splitting the cost. This one attorney can file your papers with the local courthouse. Or you file ‘Pro Se’. Done and over.

Please don’t think that I think it’s that easy. It’s not. But if you keep in mind, that your children are more important to you than revenge, if you think maintaining a certain  acquired life style for you and your children or just for you (and your estranged) better half,  is more important than “getting even”, then you will chose to go the intelligent route.

A mediated divorce with a qualified, experienced mediator will on average cost about 80 – 90% less of what a traditional divorce would have cost the same couple with two attorneys. More importantly, it will leave the divorcing couple in much better shape, emotionally and financially. It will also be far less traumatic for children, regardless of their age. And lastly, due to the existing legal bureaucracy and back logs it will also be much faster. This technique has been used successfully for decades in Europe and for a while now in California, and is popping up in other states, largely due to advances in internet commerce and social media.