The Benefits and Risks of DIY Legal Drafting Services

Empower Yourself: The Benefits and Risks of DIY Legal Drafting Services

DIY projects can be a great option for small home repairs or sprucing up your home’s interior. Some online-based services are now taking that approach to allow customers to fill in the blanks on legal forms and other court documents. While it may be tempting to try and save some money by foregoing the input of a professional attorney, going the do-it-yourself route for legal paperwork may not always be a good idea.

Online do-it-yourself services for legal documents have proliferated in recent years, promising a cheaper alternative to professional legal services. However, the rise in popularity of these services has notable downsides.

The Appeal of DIY Legal Drafting Services

On the surface, the cost-savings benefits of forgoing professional legal help are appealing. Attorneys charge $200 to $500 an hour to draft and file important court documents.

Drafting your own will, for example, may seem like a simple and straightforward process. Using an online template could theoretically save you several hundred dollars or more. Plus, you won’t have to spend time finding a lawyer and setting up meetings. As you can see, DIY services offer an appealing alternative to some of the most costly legal services.

Online DIY services have also streamlined the time it takes to complete legal documents. This is possible because these generic templates are largely completed already; users simply fill in missing information as the website guides users through the process. Theoretically, the final documents serve the same purpose as any document written by an attorney or paralegal, and the templates are easy to update whenever you need to.

Limitations of DIY Legal Services

Online DIY services

Anyone who needs to draft a legal document should weigh the benefits and costs of using a DIY service. Unfortunately, there are many limitations when it comes to pre-drafted templates.

Old or Out-of-Date Templates

For example, online templates may be out of date. With the passage of new laws and statutes, the format and language of legal documents must also change. Legal professionals keep up to date on these changes, but a DIY website may not.

Risk for Error

In addition, templates carry a substantial risk for user error. The instructions provided with the template may appear clear, but any misunderstanding of the instructions could lead to faulty information input that could void the document. Worse, you won’t be able to ask questions for clarification, as online forms do not auto-review your input for accuracy. Once you click print or submit, you may be unintentionally sending an inaccurate legal document.

These mistakes may not be noticed until it is too late. If you prepared a will, this could mean that your wishes are not fully honored after your death. The probate courts would then step in to divide your estate and pay beneficiaries. Errors can invalidate certain legal documents, meaning that your DIY efforts could end up being a waste of time.

Lack of Flexibility

Preset templates do not allow for flexibility. You will not have room to customize your legal form in most cases.

Missed Deadlines

Without any legal guidance, you could miss an important filing deadline. This could mean that your spouse or former spouse gains an upper hand in court. Even if you file on time, you may accidentally file the wrong type of form because DIY services do not review your case. This is one reason why having some connection with an attorney is critical.

In any court setting, filing errors are not exceptions, and there often are no do-overs. The documents you file will likely be the source of evidence that you can use in court, and any deviation from those filings could weaken your case. This is why family law attorneys are so meticulous when drafting, revising, and proofreading court documents. In the practice of law, every word is important.

Benefits of Working With a Legal Professional

Benefits of Working With a Legal Professional

Attorneys and their trained paralegals know the law, have updated resources to research it, and have practical knowledge of how the law is applied.

Legal professionals have additional skills that DIY platforms cannot replace.

  • Strategic Communication – Lawyers understand what to say and not say in conversations with the other party. This also applies to written documents that another party could read.
  • Risk Assessment – Lawyers are skilled at identifying what should be included in a contract. This can help with risk assessment by preventing future misunderstandings that could leave their client liable for their actions.
  • Objectivity – Legal documents should be written without bias or emotional language. Anyone who does not have experience with this type of language could inadvertently include emotionally charged language that weakens the effectiveness of the document.
  • Legal Qualifications – A boilerplate document may appear simple, but those forms do not change the fact that the practice of law is complex and constantly evolving. Legal professionals are trained in the type of language used in contracts, and topics like indemnity, confidentiality, arbitration, and force majeure do not simply become less complex because a template makes them appear to be.
  • Limitations of AI – If you are relying on AI to do your legal research as you fill out your DIY document, you could be adding inaccurate or out-of-date information. AI relies on the internet for information, and AI does not have the ability to independently assess the accuracy of its data.
  • Counsel – An attorney does more than defend clients’ rights; lawyers provide counsel by giving advice and answering questions.
    Although you, as the client, ultimately have the final say on legal matters, having access to a trusted legal advisor is one of the most important services that a lawyer or law firm provides.

If you do not incorporate professional legal assistance at some point in your document drafting, you are missing out on these important qualities that only a legal professional can deliver. One way to blend the cost-savings of DIY with the practical benefits of professional legal assistance is through a hybrid approach.

The Hybrid Approach: DIY with Professional Guidance

Skilled Arizona attorneys

The best legal drafting services provide professional drafting and guidance from lawyers. These companies combine the benefits of a skilled attorney with the convenience and price point of a DIY service. You’ll receive professionally drafted documents crafted with your unique case in mind without the need to spend thousands of dollars.

Documents drafted by Draft My Legal Docs are created by skilled Arizona attorneys who will help you draft, prepare, and file your legal documents. Our online service offers more than 50 legal document options, and our staff can help you navigate your family court case with ease. The benefits are personalized legal service at an affordable rate provided by legal professionals who care about your case.

The hybrid approach combines the cost-savings of DIY with the confidence that comes from working with a team of legal professionals who understand Arizona’s family law process. You will likely require multiple document filings for your family court case. Draft My Legal Docs works to make sure that every document you file is detailed and accurate. Our thorough review will ensure that the document conforms to state statutes and laws.

Areas of family law that are covered through Draft My Legal Docs’ services include:

  • Annulment
  • Same-sex divorce
  • Legal separation
  • Order enforcement
  • Property and debt division
  • Child custody
  • Child support enforcement
  • Postnuptial agreements
  • Prenuptial agreements

Should I Just Hire an Attorney?

Hiring an attorney to represent you in court offers many benefits, but not everyone can afford an attorney throughout the court process. Some divorce and child custody cases require multiple hearings that can go on for months if not years. Even when a parent can afford an attorney early on, having dedicated legal counsel can become unaffordable months into the court process.

Draft My Legal Docs has a team of attorneys who will guide you through the court process, but they are not bound to represent you in court. This legal service allows customers to have many of the benefits of legal assistance without the high cost of paying an attorney $300 to $500 an hour to show to court.

Even when there is no active litigation, having an attorney review documents can help you catch mistakes that may cause complications or delays later on. Many Arizona parents have chosen this hybrid approach to navigate the family court process.

Which Option Is Right For Me?

If you are going through a divorce, child custody battle, or another family court case, you have the option of using DIY drafting services that do not provide attorney reviews and guidance. These services have the benefit of being affordable and relatively easy to use.

Unfortunately, an online template cannot guide you through the court process. DIY legal document drafting programs do not always keep their templates up to date, meaning you could be using an outdated form that could cause legal problems. When it comes to family court cases, one error can have disastrous ramifications for your personal life. You could lose important financial assets or access to your children.

Another option is to hire an attorney to handle your legal affairs for you. However, this option is simply not affordable for many people. Attorneys charge hundreds of dollars an hour for full representation. With this option, you may also experience additional time in court.

Meanwhile, services like Draft My Legal Docs provide clients with access to legal guidance at a fraction of the cost of hiring an attorney. Along with the cost savings, there is peace of mind that comes from knowing that an Arizona attorney who understands the state’s family court laws will review every document to ensure that it is admissible in court and serves your needs and goals.

Learn More About How Draft My Legal Docs Can Help You in Court

Review every document to ensure that it is admissible in court

If you rely on DIY websites to provide blank templates for your legal filings, you are taking a significant risk that may not be worth the benefits. While those online services offer convenience, you will not have access to an actual attorney when you need answers to basic questions.

Draft My Legal Docs offers a hybrid option that combines the cost savings of DIY templates with the benefits of hiring attorneys. You won’t have to pay hundreds of dollars an hour for Draft My Legal Docs, but you will be able to trust that an attorney will review your documents and provide recommendations on which forms you may need to fill out for future court hearings. With so much on the line, those extra services can help you navigate the family court system with confidence.

To learn more about how Draft My Legal Docs can serve you, schedule a consultation today.


  1. Average Attorney Fees by State [Updated September 2022]. (n.d.).
Motion to Set Resolution Management Conference

Motion to Set Resolution Management Conference Legal Docs

If you are involved in a family court case, particularly a divorce or legal separation, you will likely be required to attend a Resolution Management Conference (RMC). In some cases, a family will request this hearing be scheduled in order to discuss and resolve issues. In others, the conference will determine that issues are unresolvable and that the case will require a judgment from a subsequent trial.

To request that the court schedule an RMC, participants must file a Motion to Set Resolution Management Conference. However, virtually every family law case will automatically require the scheduling of an RMC to establish the judge’s familiarity with the case and determine the subsequent needs.

The Purpose of a Resolution Management Conference

A Resolution Management Conference aims for an amicable and efficient outcome for the case with the purpose of achieving the following goals: 

  • Inform the judge of the details and circumstances of the case with regard to both sides.
  • Facilitate communication between both sides and their lawyers to allow for negotiation, compromise, and agreement on important issues.
  • Explore options like mediation or other alternatives to resolve remaining issues and avoid a trial if possible.
  • Establish the need for a trial if all other alternative resolution methods are deemed ineffective.

How to Prepare for a Motion to Set RMC

The most important thing anyone can do upon filing for a Motion to Set Resolution Management Conference is to ensure your documents are filed as accurately as possible to represent your situation, the details of your case, and the factors involved in any disputes between you and the other party. The more accurate the information you provide, the more information can be considered by the judge, who will ultimately be determining the direction of your case and making a ruling.

Without proper documentation of the details of your case, the judge will not be properly informed of your unique position in the case or the information regarding your position, and thus, the hearing will have little merit. Consider that properly drafted documents can ensure that the RMC takes place as needed, but well-drafted documents can positively affect the outcome of an RMC hearing. Honest and well-presented documents can not only serve to meet the needs of your case as a whole but also your individual needs for the final outcome of your hearing.

AZ Legal Framework for Filing a Motion to Set Resolution Management Conferences

The straightforward rules that govern Arizona family law motion practice filing, such as a Motion to Set Resolution Management Conference, begin with Rule 91. This rule specifically verifies that any family law case is subject to the scheduling of an RMC by the court. It also states that any party may request one of these hearings by filing a Motion to Set Resolution Management Conference.

AZ Legal Framework for Filing a Motion to Set Resolution Management Conferences

Filing a motion requires specific requirements to be met, including filing a written Motion to Set Resolution Management Conference that includes the individual’s legal and jurisdictional basis for filing the request. The motion must also specify the reason for the hearing, such as the issues that need to be discussed.

Secondly, the party filing the motion, also called the moving party, must serve notice to all other parties involved in the case either by mail, approved electronic delivery, or hand delivery. This notifies the other parties that a motion was made, and they are now involved in the case. This notice also allows the opposing party an opportunity to respond to the motion, so long as it is within the appropriate time frame set forth in the motion notice. If objections are raised, the court will address these in a separate hearing.

When the court receives the Motion to Set Resolution Management Conference, the RMC will be set for a date within 30 days. When resolutions regarding various areas are not made in the RMC, an evidentiary hearing will be scheduled to facilitate the resolution of the disputed issues.

Key Considerations When Filing a Motion to Set Resolution Management Conference

When preparing for and presenting a Motion to Set Resolution Management Conference, there are some important elements that must be considered. First, when filing the motion, the timeframe of the case should be considered because the motion must indicate the date the case will be ready for trial. The names and contact information of the parties and their attorneys should also be listed precisely. Next, an estimate of the time the trial will take should also be included, along with whether or not the case involves custody, which would entitle the case to preference for trial status.

Potential for Meet and Confer Requirements

Often, the court will require the parties involved in a Resolution Management Conference to participate in a session known as a “Meet and Confer.” This meeting enables the involved parties, their attorneys, or both to gather and discuss various details of the case ahead of the Resolution Management Conference. The intent is to attempt to settle at least some of the issues concerning the hearing in advance.

Early Resolution Conference

When neither party is represented by an attorney, a judge will see a need for an Early Resolution Conference that will be scheduled within one month. This allows the judge to gain important insight into a case much earlier. The court will set this date and require the parties to meet with a mediator to determine whether any issues can be settled before the Resolution Management Conference.

Temporary Orders

There are frequent instances in Arizona family court, specifically in divorce cases, when court orders are needed, but case rulings are not yet finalized by a judge. During the time leading up to a divorce hearing and final judgment, there may be a need for temporary orders regarding matters like child custody, child support, spousal support, and other areas. Once a motion for the requested order is made, an RMC will be scheduled to inform the judge of the situation.

In order to get an RMC scheduled, you must file the appropriate motion associated with the order you’re requesting.

The various motions that must be filed to request temporary orders be granted, along with any documents that must accompany them, are listed below. 

  • Motions for Pre-Decree Decision-Making and Parenting Time – Must include a proposed parenting plan stating decision-making parameters and visitation time for both parties
  • Motions for Pre-Decree for Child Support Orders – Must include the completed Child Support Worksheet with the amount of support requested and an Affidavit of Financial Information as required by law in Rule 97 (Form 2)
  • Motions for Pre-Decree for Spousal Maintenance – Must include specific amounts and duration requested, as well as an Affidavit of Financial Information according to Form 2 found under Rule 97
  • Motions for Pre-Decree for Property, Debt, and Attorney Fees Orders – Must state the reason for specific relief, proposed exclusion of a party from a residence, division of community property, or payment of debts, expenses, or attorney fees (must state specific fee amounts and include Affidavit of Financial Information), as well as specific amounts of income and assets each party should receive if granted

Accurate documents that are properly prepared can make a significant impact on your case. If you need Arizona family law motion document help, Draft My Legal Docs is a powerful resource operated by respected Arizona family law attorneys.

What to Expect at a Resolution Management Conference

Once you have a scheduled date on the court docket for your RMC, there are a few things you should do to prepare. First, it is imperative that you plan to attend the RMC, or your side of the case may be discounted in the final ruling. Likewise, if the other party does not appear, it can be harmful to their case. Thus, it is important all involved participants be in attendance, as well as both sides’ legal representatives, if you have them.

RMC Memorandum

You will be required to submit an RMC Memorandum. This document briefs the judge on the details of your case. Both sides must submit this memorandum so that the judge can gather insight into the entire picture of the case, including both sides of the story. It is important that this document is drafted carefully and created to be an all-encompassing overview that contains any and all relevant information to your case.

RMC Memorandum

A petition for divorce doesn’t include the intricacies of a family’s situation, so the judge needs more of the story to accurately preside over your RMC. The Memorandum provides this by informing the judge about both parties’ circumstances, status, minor children involved, and any issues, whether agreed upon or still unresolved. It should contain any pertinent information related to child custody, child support, division of property, or spousal support. However, it’s important to note that the RMC is non-evidentiary, so there is no need to include exhibits, evidence, or testimony – it should just present the facts of the case.

The Outcome of an RMC

The judge will ultimately use the information gained throughout the RMC process not to make any rulings or judgments on the case but merely to determine whether the case requires a trial, if it qualifies for a Settlement Conference, or if it needs another form of hearing to better serve the needs of the case. For instance, if there are unresolved issues regarding a parenting plan or visitation schedules, the judge may schedule a Parenting Conference to resolve these types of disputes. However, if there are issues that have been agreed on by both parties and submitted to the judge via the RMC, the terms of these agreements become legally binding for both spouses at this hearing.

The Importance of the RMC

It can be useful to think of an RMC as an interview at a staffing company and the Memorandum as a resume submitted prior to that interview. The resume informs the hiring manager of all the background and details of your history regarding your employment, just as the Memorandum informs the judge of the history regarding your family. If you were interviewing for a job placement, you would want to make a good impression and present yourself as honestly and positively as possible. This should also be your intention when attending your RMC.

Making an honest and accurate impression should be your primary goal throughout your RMC. Just as a staffing agency would take all the data, perspective, and influence from the interview obtained by the interviewer to properly place you in a job that suits your specific qualifications, a judge directs your case to properly meet your needs within the scope of Arizona family laws.

How an RMC Can Affect Your Case

An RMC can be leveraged as a powerful tool in family court and thus should not be taken lightly. It should be used to shape the judge’s perspective and opinion of your case. When your RMC documents are well-crafted and drafted by a legal professional, it can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. Draft My Legal Docs can help you make a positive impression at your RMC, which can greatly impact the subsequent proceedings of your Arizona family law case, as well as assist in the preparation of related documents required for various motion requests. For help creating accurate RMC documents, contact Draft My Legal Docs.

Resources :

How Financially Prepare for AZ Divorce

How to Prepare Finances for a Divorce in AZ

A handful of important considerations beckon your attention throughout the divorce process. And, being prepared can help ensure your assets stay protected.

How to Make Financial Moves Before a Divorce

If you or your partner have recently filed for divorce in Arizona, there are a few things that you should try to do as quickly as possible.

Choose a Lawyer that’s Right for You

One of the most important steps you can take before beginning a divorce is hiring an attorney you can trust. Divorce can be an intimidating process that is already emotional and stressful, and feeling unsure how to proceed can create even more anxiety.

By hiring an experienced AZ attorney, you will receive advice and assistance throughout your divorce, including formidable representation in court. A divorce lawyer is experienced with all the issues that may occur during divorce, including financial considerations. If you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse differ regarding the division of assets, an attorney can help you handle financial concerns in a way that preserves your future.

Organize and Identify Your Assets

Organize Records

Identifying your assets also helps if you think your partner may try to sell or hide any community assets in an attempt to avoid dividing them with you. Bank statements, credit card statements, mortgage statements, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and any physical assets or properties should all be accounted for. It is critical to know what you have before you begin the property division process.

Estimate the Cost of Your Divorce

Unfortunately, divorce is rarely a cheap process. Many people go into divorce not expecting its high price tag and are therefore uncertain what to do with money before a divorce begins. Whether you choose mediation to settle various aspects of your divorce out of court or engage in lengthy litigation to make decisions, divorce expenses can add up quickly. Since every divorce is different, it isn’t easy to determine the potential cost of your case. However, estimating attorney fees, moving costs, court fees, and regular monthly expenses can help to give you a better idea of how to manage your money moving forward.

Avoid Making Major Financial Decisions

Of course, divorcing is itself a major financial decision that will impact your finances. However, other major decisions, like changing your beneficiaries, closing accounts, and transferring assets before a divorce can hurt you during the divorce process. These things will be handled legally once the divorce is underway and the division of assets has begun. If you make these moves too soon, you may risk contempt of court or lose your assets to your soon-to-be-ex.

How to Prepare Finances for an Arizona Divorce

During your divorce, division of assets will result in property ownership changes, in addition to your regular and divorce-related expenses. Here are some tips for handling your finances during the chaos of a divorce.

Close Joint Accounts

Close Joint Accounts

Once you have begun the divorce process, it’s time to start closing your joint accounts. Often, bank accounts have both partners’ names, and funds will have to be transferred individually to new accounts. Joint credit cards must be canceled through the creditor, and you’ll have to open your own new credit account.

Closing joint accounts can help prevent your ex-spouse from misusing funds before the divorce is finalized. It’s important that you open a new checking and savings account in your own name and arrange income for deposits and debits for expenses to be handled through the new account. You should also keep documentation regarding when you closed your joint accounts and began your own.

Get An Asset Evaluation

Your assets are important. Whether you’re dealing with expensive collectible items, a shared family home, or your retirement fund, evaluating your assets is critical for a fair property division process. By hiring a professional to evaluate your and your ex-partner’s assets, you can ensure that the correct value is placed on each asset and that they are fairly divided during the divorce. A professional asset evaluation should be done as soon as possible to avoid delays in your divorce and prevent your partner from hiding assets.

Gather Financial Documentation

To properly handle your finances and ensure that property division occurs fairly during your divorce, you will need to collect a great deal of financial documentation. If you have not already done so prior to beginning your divorce, gather bank statements and credit card statements to help to give your lawyers and the court a better idea of how finances were used throughout your marriage. Checking and savings statements, pay stubs, credit card statements, bills, loan agreements, and income tax returns are all critical documentation needed during a divorce. These documents can help the court understand how money was handled as well as its source, such as the individual incomes of each partner.

Maintain Your Individual Credit

Your credit score plays a crucial role in many areas of your life, including your financial health. Despite the difficulties of your divorce, it’s important to maintain your credit. Unfortunately, people often complete a divorce with weak credit due to mounting expenses, their partner’s spending issues, and many other factors. It’s essential to continue building your individual credit so that you can avoid issues like higher financing rates or difficulty renting or purchasing a new property.

Don’t Forget About Insurance Policies

Insurance policies can become a complex financial task because they often affect other important aspects of your life, many of which were shared with your partner. For example, most life insurance policies will require beneficiary changes if you wish to remove your former spouse. Car insurance policies may also need to be changed if they were previously shared by both spouses or if vehicle ownership has changed.

How Can I Afford to Live on My Own After Divorce?

During a divorce, you may experience multiple different housing situations, all of which present different financial concerns. So, how does this work?

Home Sale

One Spouse Buys Out the Other

Since a home is a physical asset that cannot be split unless sold, the person remaining in the family home must often “buy out” the other spouse. This can be done via a cash out finance or forfeiture of an asset or assets of equal value. With these assets or funds from the cash out refinance in hand, the other spouse can afford a new living situation. The title will need to be transferred to the remaining spouse, and all ownership and mortgage documents should be solely under that spouse’s name.

Spouses Agree to Sell the Home

Another option is selling the family home. Sometimes, this is the best option for couples who do not have children, or cases where neither partner feels they have the finances to maintain the home on their own. With the help of a real estate agent and your lawyer, you and your partner can sell your shared home and then split the proceeds fairly. If you and your partner can’t afford to keep the home or are worried about selling it in the current market, you may also agree to rent the house to a third party. When this happens, proceeds can be split between both partners.

Other Circumstances

Unfortunately, the above options may not be available for all couples, especially if they owe more for the home than the home’s current market value. In some cases, if neither you or your partner wants to remain in the home, or neither of you feel you can afford to stay there, you may have to agree to sell the home at a loss. In more severe circumstances, foreclosure may be necessary. Moving forward, the assets retained after the divorce and your own efforts to maintain your credit should help you find a new residence you can afford.

Protect Yourself and Prepare Your Finances During a Divorce

We provide affordable legal services for any individual involved in or looking to initiate a family or divorce law case. We offer guidance as well as our professional expertise and knowledge of the law. We are located in the heart of Phoenix, but our services are digital, which allows us to help individuals throughout the state.


*Editor’s Note: This article was originally published March 21, 2018 and has been rewritten August 23, 2022.

Wrecking Your Finance

How To Keep A Divorce From Wrecking Your Finances

By Laurence Kotlikoff, Next Avenue Contributor 

(Kotlikoff also contributes to Forbes. His posts can be found here.) 

Divorce is always sad, but when it turns ugly, it’s terrible. You may remember The War of the Roses, the dark comedy where Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas start out as a perfect couple and end up destroying their possessions — including their luxurious house and cars — because they can’t agree on who gets what. That movie is unfortunately hitting home for plenty of boomers and Gen X’ers. According to a recent survey by Allianz Life Insurance, two thirds of divorced women feel their divorce created a financial crisis.

Many of my friends have gone to divorce war, but unlike Turner and Douglas, they destroyed their finances (by paying steep legal fees), not their possessions. Divorce doesn’t have to be as financially painful as it so often is, though.

Why Divorce Turns Into War

What drives divorce wars? My hunch is that many are driven by very different assessments by spouses of the impact of their proposed settlements. For example, a husband may think his settlement proposal is incredibly generous while his wife thinks it’s miserably cheap. Without a neutral measurement stick, their fight — with the lawyers’ meters running — can go on and on.

s an economist, I’d say that this is where economics can help couples. Its math and computer algorithms can figure out precisely how much each spouse will get to spend now and in the future under any given divorce settlement. And this analysis can take into account all relevant factors, including the division of assets, alimony and child support, child custody and the disposition of the marital home.

How do I know? My company just released a new software tooldesigned to limit divorce wars (full disclosure: I derive no income from it). It calculates each spouse’s living standard under any proposed divorce settlement.

John and Sally’s Equitable Divorce

Let me illustrate this new technology:

Take John and Sally Doe, both 50, who are untying the knot after 25 years. John earns $200,000; Sally earns $40,000. John and his employer both contribute $6,000 a year to his 401(k). Sally and her employer both contribute $3,000 to hers. John and Sally plan to retire at 65. The couple has one child, Sam, 10. Sam will spend 80% of his time with Sally and 20% with John. John will cover Sam’s college expenses. The couple own a $450,000 house with a $90,000 mortgage. John proposes that Sally live in their house for eight years, while he picks up three-quarters of the housing cost. Meanwhile, John will buy a condo for $200,000. Sally will buy the same-priced condo when they sell their house, sharing the proceeds 50/50. John also proposes dividing the couple’s $200,000 in regular assets and $1 million in retirement assets in proportion to their labor earnings.

John wants to be fair. He figures that paying for most of Sally’s and Sam’s housing for the next eight years, covering Sam’s college expenses and housing and feeding Sam one-fifth of the time is highly generous. He also believes his and Sally’s living standards will be pretty similar once his much higher tax payments are factored in. So John proposes no alimony or child support.

Is John right? Will he and Sally be able to spend roughly the same amount over the rest of their days?

No, he’s wrong. But by playing around with the numbers and the software they can arrive at an agreement that works for both of them.

John’s proposed settlement lets him spend $83,215 annually and Sally spend $23,353 annually (measured in today’s dollars) after covering all housing costs and taxes. There are lots of reasons for this big differential, including John’s higher salary, his large asset share and his receipt of higher Social Security benefits.

When Sally points out the large spending (living standard) difference, John offers to split all assets 50/50. Now John’s and Sally’s annual spending amounts become $73,891 and $35,757, respectively.

Sally, who sacrificed her career to put John through law school and raise Sam, digs in her heels. “John, you need to pay alimony and child support,” she says. John agrees to $25,000-a-year in child support until Sam goes to college. Sally runs the computer program again and finds that John’s annual spending would now be $68,783 and hers would be $41,158.

Sally says, “John, sorry, but you wouldn’t be making five times my salary if it weren’t for me. There is no reason I should have a lower living standard going forward. If you pay me $20,555 each year in alimony and agree to the other things you offered, we’ll both get to spend the same amount each year: $54,836.”

John thinks this over and then counters with a $10,000 annual alimony payment, pointing out that his job is far more demanding than Sally’s. Sally, upon reflection, decides this is reasonable and the two hire a single attorney for one hour to draw up the agreement. Sally and John used economics to save their divorce.

How to Divorce Fairly

Couples don’t have to use this software to come up with equitable divorce agreements. You can also get a rough handle on your relative spending levels by comparing each spouse’s disposable lifetime resources.

To arrive at this number, you’d start by calculating your lifetime resources (the present value (how much a future sum of money is worth today) of your future labor, Social Security and other income including alimony and child support plus your current net worth. Next, you’d subtract the present value of your projected taxes, housing costs, expenditures on children and other expenses including alimony and child support payments. The difference is your spendable resources.

Do this for your spouse, too, and then divide by each spouse’s maximum remaining lifespan (use a calculator like this one) to find what each spouse will be able to spend annually. This is a rough calculation primarily because you’ll need to guesstimate your taxes and may mis-estimate your Social Security benefits, since they may be different in the future than what you expect today.

Source: “”, Laurence Kotlikoff, 5/31/2017.


9 Tips for Protecting Children from Conflict during Divorce

It’s impossible to avoid conflict completely, but you can learn to control it. Here are nine useful tips for reducing the harmful effects of conflict during and after divorce.

There are several things parents can do to protect their children from conflict and reduce the harmful effects of long-term conflict during and after divorce. Some solutions require the aid of others, including the court. A parenting coordinator can help work out a plan as well as reduce conflict between co-parents.

1. Remove the Cause. Obviously, this is the best course of action, but it may require counseling or therapy. You need to examine your own role in feeding conflict; if there’s nothing you can do to end the dispute, you need to structure your life to decrease the violence. You should avoid fighting and playing mind-games. Children copy their parents’ behavior: they can become aggressive and show poor control of emotions.

2. Learn New Skills. Often, just going to a class will motivate parents. They will learn about the harmful effects of conflict. Hopefully, they’ll want to change – but to change, they must learn new skills. They must learn how to communicate without causing anger and how to listen to what is being said without judging. Parents need to work together and cooperate for the child’s sake. Books or videos about divorce and parenting can also help, and parenting skill classes are offered in many communities. These skills will help with many aspects of raising children post-divorce.

3. Keep Children Out of the Middle. Parents need to keep their child out of their disputes. Being caught in the middle between Mom and Dad is very stressful for children: the most powerful reason for a child to be maladjusted is conflict between the parents. Parental disagreements cause stress and suffering in a child; children often emerge in good shape from low-conflict break-ups, and they do better than those in an intact family with high conflict. Parents in conflict are poor role models, inconsistent with discipline, and inattentive – all of which creates stress for their children. Negative emotions between co-parents are carried over into their interactions with their children. After the conflict, parents are suffering, too; involvement with their child decreases and they cannot respond to their child’s emotional needs.

4. Control Your Emotions. Many parents go through regular cycles of emotion, from conflict to detachment. Feelings of anger, frustration, and resentment come and go – as do sadness, loneliness, and despair. Feelings of love, anger, and sadness have different effects, and some parents get “stuck” in one of these three feelings. Parents stuck in anger may endlessly seek revenge; those stuck in love may continue to hope to reconcile; and those stuck in sadness may become depressed, blaming themselves for all of the problems of the marriage. Parents need to learn to use non-violent language; most people respond well when given a positive message (something to do) and poorly when given a negative message (not to do something). Nonviolent Communication, by Marshall Rosenberg, explains this strategy (see the Center for Nonviolent Communication at Good communication skills enable parents to react less emotionally in tense situations.

5. Prepare for Long-Term Conflict. Disputes continue for a long time post-divorce for most families, so parents should develop a plan that shields the child from conflict. The child will benefit if kept out of parents’ angry arguments. Co-parents should work hard to maintain their own and the other parent’s bond with the child, and they need to accept each other’s different values and parenting styles.

6. Contain Your Anger. Being cordial and formal will help keep your emotions in check. High conflict is usually temporary, so it is best not to decrease the child’s access to the other parent; it is more harmful for a child to lose a relationship with a parent than it is for them to be exposed to conflict for a short period of time. Decreasing contact between one parent and the child can lead to complete loss of contact over time, and children never get over the loss of a parent relationship – even as adults. There are good online programs that can help, such as Children in the Middle (; parents can also work with a therapist or counselor. Mediators can also help reduce conflict by teaching parents to find ways to cooperate and agree.

7. Children as a Cause of Conflict. Sometimes, a child can make the fighting between parents worse. If a child has serious behavior problems or emotional problems, it adds to the burdens of the parents. If parents have trouble handling these issues, conflicts can arise or be aggravated. Of course, the child’s problems may be caused by the break-up or by the parents’ conflict; it can be difficult to know just what is causing what. The best solution is for the parents to agree on how to deal with the child’s problems: they need to be consistent across households, and they should support each other in front of the children.

8. Avoid Loyalty Conflicts. Loyalty conflicts, where a child feels pressure to choose sides, are the most damaging aspect of parental conflict. Most parents do not think they put their child in the middle of their dispute, but children say that they do. Some parents criticize the child for not hating their other parent, or act hurt when the child wants to be with their other parent. A child may not be allowed to talk about the other parent or to bring things back from the other house. The child may be quizzed about time spent with his/her other parent or about the other parent’s personal life.

A child will try to resolve loyalty conflicts in several ways, including:

  • having a separate but equal connection with each parent
  • trying to get the parents to be nice to each other
  • acting out, getting into trouble, or getting sick
  • becoming angels
  • retreating from both parents and turning to their peers
  • seeking comfort in alcohol, drugs, or risky sex.

Being caught in the middle is too great a burden for most children. The video, Children in the Middle, teaches parents to reduce the number of loyalty conflicts and the number of times the child is exposed to their arguments. The child learns to speak up when caught in the middle of parental disputes.

9. Arguing Constructively. It is impossible to avoid conflict completely, but you can learn to control it. Controlled conflict often leads to positive, constructive changes. Parents can learn to manage conflict, learn to compromise, and become more effective parents. When they do this, their child’s behavior improves.

Source:, “”, Donald A. Gordon (Ph.D.) and Jack Arbuthnot (Ph.D.), Updated: November 12, 2015.
Divorced Gay Couple

Supreme Court asked to rule in divorced gay couple’s child custody case

PHOENIX — Saying biology matters, an Arizona woman is making a last-ditch effort in court to keep from being forced to share custody of her child with her former wife.

Keith Berkshire, attorney for Kimberly McLaughlin, is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn last year’s ruling by the state’s high court, which concluded that Suzan McLaughlin had the same right to claim parentage as if she had been Kimberly’s husband.

In legal pleadings, Berkshire acknowledged the historic 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that concluded that states must extend the right to marry to same-sex couples.

The justices expanded on that two years later, spelling out that same-sex couples must have access to the “constellation of benefits that the state has linked to marriage.”

But Berkshire contends nothing in either ruling requires states to ignore the biological fact that men and women are different — and that, by definition, two women cannot both be the biological parent of a child born to one of them. That, he said, undermines the decision of the Arizona Supreme Court to effectively rewrite a statute that says only men are entitled to the presumption of “paternity” of a child born during a marriage.

In the legal filings, the attorney also takes a slap of sorts at the Arizona Supreme Court, saying the justices effectively adopted a statute dealing with how paternity cases are handled in cases of artificial insemination, a statute that, while approved in other states, had never been enacted by lawmakers in Arizona.

What the U.S. Supreme Court decides could have implications on other cases involving child custody and support: A ruling against Berkshire would undermine arguments by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and the Center for Arizona Policy that just because same-sex marriages are legal does not void state laws that differentiate between same-sex couples and heterosexual couples.

That’s not just an academic argument.

In writing last year’s ruling, Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Scott Bales said he reads the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage to “require a reassessment of various state statutes, rules, and regulations to the extent they deny same-sex spouses all of the benefits afforded opposite-sex spouses.” That includes taxation, property rights, hospital access, adoption rights and more.

Court records show Kimberly and Suzan, legally married in California in 2008, agreed to have a child through artificial insemination using an anonymous sperm donor.

Kimberly became pregnant in 2010. The couple moved to Tucson, entered into a joint-parenting agreement and executed mirror wills, declaring they were equal parents to the child.

After the boy’s 2011 birth, Suzan stayed home and cared for him while Kimberly worked as a physician.

When he was nearly 2, Kimberly moved out, taking the boy with her and cutting off his contact with Suzan.

In filing for divorce, Suzan sought parenting time, citing an Arizona law that says that the husband is the presumed parent of a child born within 10 months of a marriage.

When a trial judge agreed to let the case proceed, Kimberly appealed, saying the paternity presumption law, by its plain wording, applies only when the other spouse is a man.

Berkshire said the Arizona Supreme Court, in agreeing Suzan could use the paternity statutes to be declared one of the boy’s parents, ignored both the reason legislators wrote the law the way they did as well as basic biology.

 “Specifically, when a woman is married to a man and becomes pregnant, it is not only possible but also likely that her husband is the biological father of her child,” he wrote in his petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“When a woman is married to another woman, it is impossible for both women to be biologically related to the child,” he said. “A statute that acknowledges this biological fact does not violate the Fourteenth Amendment,” which guarantees equal protection under the law.

Berkshire said Suzan might have a claim if she and Kimberly lived in a state like Oregon, New Jersey or New York. Lawmakers in each of those states have adopted measures, based on a model statute, which spell out that if a child is born to a woman through artificial insemination, her husband is automatically treated as if he were the child’s biological parent.

“Arizona does not have an artificial insemination statute, and Arizona is not required to enact one,” the attorney told the justices. But he said the ruling written by Bales effectively “circumvented the legislature” and enacted the model law.

“But this is not the court’s role,” Berkshire said. “If this court or constituents are dissatisfied with the state of our current laws, the proper forum to advocate for change is in the legislature, not the courtroom.”

The attorney said the Arizona Supreme Court intruded into the realm of state lawmakers by concluding the paternity statutes had to be read and enforced in a gender-neutral fashion.

He said it was “beyond the Arizona Supreme Court’s domain to rewrite the statute in order to conform with any perceived public policy.”

Source: “”, Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services, 01/15/2018.

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