Do I need an attorney?
It is recommended that you get an attorney, especially if you have minor children, own anything together or have debts.
Why are attorneys recommended?
You know more about your situation than anybody else. On a personal level, you are the experts. However, you are involved in a legal case in the court system. Whether or not you know or understand the law, it will impact your situation. It will affect you.
It is important for you to know the range of what the court might decide on the different issues in your situation and why. It is important for you to know the financial or tax ramifications or consequences of all of your decisions. It is important for you to know any legal consequences to your decisions, so you are not surprised or disappointed later.
How do I choose an attorney?
If you want mediation to work in your case, it is important that you have an attorney who will support you and help you prepare for mediation.
Attorneys have two main roles: as an advisor and as an advocate. In mediation, you want to benefit from your attorney's advice. When you go to trial, you want an attorney who will advocate for you.
Ask your friends, family and other people you respect about who they would recommend, and why.
Call a few attorneys. Ask them:
- Are you supportive of your clients mediating their divorce or custody cases?
- How do you help them prepare? (Before mediation? In-between sessions? What do you do?)
- How many (or what percentage) of your clients who mediate actually reach agreements in mediation?
- Why do you think that is?
- How many (or what percentage) of your clients end up in a trial?
- Why do you think that is?
- Ethically, attorneys are supposed to work for the best interest of their clients. What does that mean to you?
Ask any other questions that are important to you.
Your attorney will be your mentor during an important time in your life. It is essential that you choose someone who shares your goals, who you feel comfortable expressing yourself with, who you trust and get along with.
What if we do not have minor children, do not own property together, and do not have joint debts?
If you do not have minor children, do not own property together, and do not have joint debts, it may be possible for you to handle your case without an attorney.
The Iowa Pro Se Dissolution of Marriage Kit, or the Do It Yourself Divorce Kit, was written by Iowa lawyers and may be helpful for you. Pro Se means ‘for yourself’ or ‘by yourself.’ This kit is not at all adequate for situations with minor children.
What follows is a letter from the Women's Resource and Action Center (WRAC) at the University of Iowa regarding the Pro Se Dissolution of Marriage Kit.
This letter contains information about the Pro Se Dissolution of Marriage Kit which we believe may be helpful to you in your consideration of using the packet. We ask for $10 for each kit. This allows the packet to be updated regularly and helps to cover printing and mailing costs. This amount is designed to keep the packet's cost minimal and affordable to all who request the kit. If you cannot afford this amount, please send the request form with whatever amount you can afford.
The packet outlines the pros and cons of Pro Se Dissolutions (divorces), and includes information on dissolution of marriage in Iowa, comprehensive instruc-tions for filing your own divorce, and samples of documents used in filing a dissolution. The samples are intended for general use; changes are often necessary.
Two forms must be obtained from your County Clerk
(at the County Courthouse): The Statistical Report and the Affidavit of Financial Status.
This kit only covers divorces in which:
- You do not have any children under the age of 18 born during the marriage. This includes any children born during the marriage whose father is someone other than the husband, and any born before the marriage whose father is the husband. NOTE: If you have a child older than 18-20 that you are still claiming on your tax return (for example, a college student) you also may not want to use this kit.
This kit does not contain anything which pertains to child custody or child support, which must be settled legally, in writing, before a judge will sign the final decree granting the divorce.
- You and your spouse don't own any houses or land.
Nothing in this kit covers transfer of title of ownership of property, which must be settled legally, in writing, before a judge will sign the final decree granting the divorce.
- You and your spouse have divided all the personal property you own, and have agreed in writing on all apportionment of debts.
- Neither you nor your spouse wants any alimony or support from the other ever.
It may be possible to use the packet under some additional circumstances, but you will require a lawyer's assistance for the legal documents which will be required in addition to this packet.
You will need a lawyer if any of the following apply:
- There are children under age 18 (also see #1 above).
- You don't know where your spouse is.
- You and your spouse disagree on any of the issues.
- Your spouse obtains a lawyer.
- The wife has become pregnant (also see #1 above).
- The spouse enters military service.
- Your spouse tries to dispose of property that you want (also see #2 above).
- There is any violence between you and your spouse.
- Any other complications exist.
We ask for feedback from those using the Pro Se
Dissolution of Marriage Kit. The following are samples from people who have provided us feedback on the packet:
"The instructions were a little confusing at first, but after reading the material several times, they became clearer. I had no problems whatsoever and was pleasantly surprised at how easy (and inexpensive) it was."
"It was a tremendous relief to me not to have to deal with the usual hassles of divorce. Thank you for making it possible."
"I appreciated the advice of the packet very much. I was overwhelmed at the amount of work (emotional, too) required to file one's own divorce. Therefore, I've retained a lawyer." (About two weeks after receiving the packet.)
If you are interested in more information about the Pro Se Dissolution of Marriage packet, please contact the Women's Resource and Action Center at the phone or location below.
They emphasize that the divorce packet does not cover all situations and is not suited to the needs of all people.
Phone number: (319) 335-1486
Women's Resource and Action Center (WRAC)
130 N. Madison St.
Iowa City, IA 52242
Mediation: It's your solution.