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Law Office of Gary R. Swavely, Jr. Blog

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Too Poor To Divorce? Not With My Help

A recent study of Philadelphia County divorce cases by Harvard Law School’s Access to Justice Lab is drawing attention to something those of us in the legal world have known for years — getting divorced is overly complicated and too expensive for many people. 

The Harvard study found that people who hire an attorney to guide them through the divorce process were 87% more likely to actually get a divorce than people attempting to represent themselves in court. And it’s not that the people who didn’t hire an attorney got back together and decided not to split up. The study randomly divided a group of low income individuals into two different groups and gave one group free legal assistance. The only difference between the groups was getting free legal help or not. 

This experiment lead the researchers to conclude that the current legal system creates a class of people who are too poor to get divorced. These people cannot afford to hire a lawyer, but the system is too complicated for most people to navigate without legal help. 

Although this study was done in Philadelphia, the problems it identified with the legal system are problems across the entire state of Pennsylvania since divorce law is state law. This is exactly why I take time to explain each step of the divorce process to my clients in the Reading area, and why I am always extremely budget conscious. 

I didn’t need a six year study to tell me that the cost of getting divorced can force some people to stay in loveless marriages. I always do the best I can to keep costs down without sacrificing quality service. 

During the first meeting I have with a client, which is free, I am upfront about how much I estimate getting divorced will cost them based on what I have learned about their individual situation. How complicated the case is — Does the couple have children? Is there property to divide? Are there retirement accounts to split up? — plays a big factor in this. There is no point in denying the fact that divorce is expensive, but getting a ballpark estimate and saving up or getting on a payment plan is much less intimidating that not having any idea how much your attorney will end up charging you. 

Part of the reason the divorce process is expensive is because it is needlessly complicated by old rules and a failure on the part of the courts to embrace new technology. I understand that my clients are paying me to make the process go smoothly and quickly. They want to know what is going on at each twist and turn, so I explain it and make sure they feel like they are the ones in the driver’s seat. Because they are. Nobody gets divorced because their marriage is great and they want to stay together. People get divorced because they want out. They want a new beginning. They want to move forward. I get it. And I get that it is my job to be the best navigator I can be. 

If you are eager to split up, but worried about how much getting divorced will cost, take the first step forward by contacting my office to schedule a free initial consultation. I will be upfront and honest with you, and do the best I can to help you regain your independence. 

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