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Working together. Maybe one lawyer? Consent Judgment in Divorce

We All Need A Champion

It is not infrequent that I receive a call from a spouse that has been discussing divorce, sometimes for a while, with his or her other spouse.  They have spent the time and had all the experience of that discussion and at least agree on one thing: they would like the divorce to be simple, as inexpensive as possible and over quickly.

This leads to the discussion of could we work together?  Would it be possible to agree on how we want this to be?

The answer to that is "yes," but there are important considerations.

The first consideration obviously is can that be done?  Is there enough actual agreement as to all the moving parts to make this possible?

In many cases the answer to that actually is and can be truly "yes."  The parties may have been separated, sometimes for years, in different states.  No kids.  No concern about spousal support (alimony).

In essence, such persons have been living their separate lives, sometimes with a formal, entered-with-a-Court separate maintenance agreement (that can be incorporated into a divorce judgment).

The issue of children also can be made simpler if the parties join together in bringing a motion (after a complaint for divorce has been filed, so that there is a case pending) to "opt out" of Friend of the Court processes, so that the parents continue to make decisions themselves only, as to kids, parenting time, all the usual and unusual issues parents face bringing up children (but without the involvement of a public entity having initial "say so").

The trick here is that a complaint still needs to be filed by one party.  The couple has to decide which one of them does that.  The next question is could the two work together in agreeing to the terms of a property settlement either to be referenced in a divorce judgment or specifically set forth in that judgment?

It is important to determine that fact early on because if a case is filed, deadlines will be issued by the Court system and if there is only one lawyer with whom the parties are attempting to draft an agreement -- and that agreement process doesn't produce an agreement on the points involved -- the Court-set dates to meet still have to be met.  

That lawyer also is not representing both parties.  He or she is representing one party and if the breakdown in the agreement effort comes after an Answer was supposed to be filed, it may or may not be soon enough in the process for time to be extended by mutual agreement for an Answer to be filed.

A meeting before the complaint if filed is the best way to determine the scope of what truly has to be agreed to, such that the legal process, and divorce is civil litigation subject to Court Rule and Court schedule, can be ascertained before the parties get into the formal Court process.

Yes, one lawyer is less expensive than two.  Maybe working together would be possible; I've seen it done and there is a feeling during and after that the couple deserves credit to achieve that result.  Having children in the picture does make this idea more difficult to accomplish than if there were no children and parents weren't struggling with each other over where the children will be in the future, where and when.

If children are involved, Michigan law also still sets the time at six (6) months from the time a complaint is filed to when a divorce is final, regardless that an agreement might have been reached between the parents well beforehand.

But not having the Friend of the Court involved with child-rearing, not having a fight(s) over matters that are potentially upsetting to all concerned, including, collaterally, children, if not directly, could be goals worth considering?

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