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Posted: 1:33 p.m. Monday, April 13, 2015

Facebook: The Final Frontier for Serving Divorce Papers

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By Clark Howard

ClarkHoward.com



Facebook is emerging as the final frontier for people to serve divorce papers when an estranged spouse can't be tracked down by other traditional means.

ABC News reports a woman named Ellanora Baidoo of Brooklyn has gotten the OK from a Manhattan judge to serve her estranged husband, Victor Sena Blood-Dzraku, with divorce papers via his Facebook email address. This is after weeks of failing to reach him with the summons because he has no known address or place of work.

While it's an unusual move, it's definitely a sign of things to come!

Meanwhile, speaking of unusual moves, have you heard about this trend accelerating around the country of people who get divorced without the help of a lawyer?

I read a stat that knocked me over: Three out of 4 divorces in California are done without a lawyer, according to The New York Times!

This is *not* an article or commercial I’m writing for you to go hire a lawyer. But sometimes the law is best left to lawyers. As one family law specialist told The Times, attempting a DIY divorce is too often “like going to WebMD and deciding to treat yourself.” Other times, however, you could legitimately get by with a DIY divorce.

You probably need a divorce lawyer if…

Let me first address who might be served with no lawyer: Those who have no assets, no kids, and when it’s not a contentious divorce. The kind of people who say, 'You know what? This just didn't work out, so we're done.'

But what if there are kids? Then there’s no question; you need a lawyer when you have minor children. Because there’s always stuff that could come up that you wouldn't think about as a non-lawyer, and it could have real implications for the welfare of your children.

If your marriage is ending, be sure to protect yourself from this financial unknown that could blindside you down the road.

You also always need a lawyer if either or both of you have significant assets, or if you have a retirement plan at work or away from the workplace. That's when you definitely hire a lawyer.



A divorce doesn't have to be expensive

Fortunately, there are lots of ways to reduce the cost of hiring a lawyer. There's something called collaborative divorce where each party has a lawyer but they agree not to slug it out in an adversarial way.

Everyone collaborates on doing a fair division of property and a streamlined easy settlement, but with the assistance of lawyers billing at lower total cost. One of the benefits of collaborative divorce is that it can be done without some of the emotional stuff that happens when you have combative divorce lawyers going at it and stirring everything up.

California is experimenting with one-day divorce school. My suspicion is that should help some people and make others realize, “Oh, maybe this wasn't a good idea to do by ourselves.”

Facing a divorce? The #1 tool divorce lawyers will use against you is something you probably do every day.

Then there's a crazy concept coming to the U.S. from Europe called the Divorce Hotel. Literally, the estranged couple checks into the hotel (in separate rooms) and stays in the hotel immersed in coming up with a settlement on an expedited basis. You work with a mediator and an independent divorce lawyer. The benefit is you eliminate any outside distractions at all and get your divorce and move on with your life.

Clearly, there are as many ways to dissolve a marriage as there are to get married. You have to know when and how to protect yourself.

Wevorce aims to make divorce easy and civil

When you think of Silicon Valley startups, they're usually all about new technology or new apps. But what about divorce? Believe it or not, there is a growing startup that uses technology and divorce support services to provide a way for people to go through a divorce at a lower cost and in a more civil way.

Many people don't want a big fight. Traditional divorce is a very adversarial proceeding with the lawyers and the courts. Enter the idea of Wevorce, which started in California and now is spreading around the country.

Wevorce offers a mix of science and the human touch as a way for people to collaborate through the divorce process. You begin by filling out a questionnaire with 180 questions that have to be answered online. Both the husband and the wife have to do this. Then Wevorce uses thoses responses to determine what kind of divorce situation you're dealing with.

Based on answers to the questions, Wevorce comes up with a list of who are the experts who have to be involved in your particular situation to collaboratively get it done. The experts involved could be accountants, lawyers, financial planners, counselors. All in an effort to avoid a lengthy process and the whole adversarial nature of traditional divorce.

Wevorce has moved from California to Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Minnesota, New York, Tennessee, Texas, Ohio, Oregon and Washington State. Their goal is to be a 50-state enterprise as an alternative with divorce.

Of course, there are situations where a marriage is so broken you can't do a collaborative thing and it's going to involve slugging it out in the courts. But if possible, if you've got kids, think about them. Think about what you can do to limit the harm to them during this difficult process.  

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