10 Reasons You May Need a DORA (Divorce Options Review and Assessment
An overview of the DORA process, and how it can benefit a divorcing couple. 10 reasons to engage and work together, as opposed to running to attorneys to settle issues for you.
Agreement House - Arizona Divorce
DORA - Taking the First Step to Divorce
For those offices that offer it, DORA (Divorce Options Review and Assessment) is an alternative to a free initial consultation, which is usually an opportunity for a sales pitch, rather than a chance to get real information.
Attorneys don't give out advice for free, and in most cases, attorneys don't work with both spouses to shepard an agreement.
This being the case, for couples who want a divorce, but want to do so with as little bloodshed as possible, uncontested divorce may be the right way to go, and DORA is the first step.
Here are ten reasons why a DORA might be useful before you get started with the divorce process.
Ten Reasons to Engage in DORA
Banish Uncertainty – Most spouses' first responses to the dreaded “D Word” is to rush to an attorney to protect their rights and get a leg up on the competition. With the DORA session, we create an environment with all of the education and none of the competition. The DORA session allows spouses to come in together and get all the information they need, and be confident that each spouse is getting the same information. In this way, they can prepare to talk on the same level because they're playing under the same rules and assumptions.
Get Professional Legal Assistance – This follows 1. closely, as both spouses will meet an experienced family law and divorce attorney for their DORA session. This allows both parties to know they are working with a professional who knows the law, and yet is not there to represent either party, but rather to represent the process, and help both parties work together under the law.
Calculate Spousal Maintenance – This is a big hangup for many couples, and in Arizona, spousal maintenance has a calculation (simple) and statutory rules (more complex) that can make determining spousal maintenance difficult and intimidating. Your DORA asssitant can explain these factors to you and help you work out a figure that both of you can be happy with, or at least set the groundwork to coming to an agreement on spousal maintenance in mediation.
Calculate Child Support – Another calculation which is even more complex, factors in spousal maintenance and is mandatory (the courts take an interest in how the children are being supported). This calculation can also be done by your DORA assistant can calculate this as well, making your child support negotiations much smoother.
Prepare to Work Together – Agreement House's goal is to encourage people to work out their issues on their own, thus framing an agreement that they can follow based on their own input rather than a judge's decision. In this way, your DORA assistant will help you find a way to work together, and if this isn't possible, you can still meet with a mediator (often times the same attorney who guides you through the DORA) to table issues, develop options, come to a middle ground, and ultimately create an agreement. This process starts with the right mindset, and the DORA is a great opportunity to encourage agreement, but also gauge whether mediation and negotiation are possible. This is something both parties want to do, and are willing to embrace.
Develop a First Draft of an Agreement – One of the tools spouses receive at the DORA is our Dissolution Questionnaire. This is the backbone for an agreement and your first opportunity to work together to see what issues are resolved and what issues require more work. It's possible to come to an agreement on your own this way, which saves time and money, but even if this is not possible, it gives both spouses, and your mediator, an idea of what issues need work, and provides some insight into how to tackle them in mediation. Having an agreement is the first step to a divorce without court, and can't be had without one.
External Legal Advice is Welcome – The information provided here in our process does not mean that parties cannot seek their own legal advice. We encourage parties to use their own lawyers, not to prepare for court, but to remind them of their rights, encourage positions in mediation and generally provide advice that we cannot, being neutral. The DORA session is an introduction to the process and a way to get both parties started under the same banner, but everyone wants a second opinion, and in our process we don't stop you from getting more information you can use.
Initial Filing – One of our options is our Document Jumpstart, which allows both of you to file for uncontested divorce, which provides the benefit of starting your 60 day waiting period sooner rather than later. The filing is only good if you follow through with uncontested divorce (creating an agreement and filing it), but if you are both committed to the process, then this should not be an issue.
Confidence – Once you've met for your DORA session, you'll have a better idea of how the process works, what issues need to be worked on, and how you can go about doing it. Before the DORA, many spouses fear the unknown, and are unsure that an uncontested divorce can work, but once both parties know what figures they are looking at, what issues are in dispute and how they can work together to solve them, confidence grows. This confidence carries over to working on the dissolution questionnaire, the first action of the new process after the DORA.
Flexibility and Freedom – The DORA is a good way to gauge whether spouses can work together, and sometimes, despite all the information acquired and the knowledge gained, spouses still look at each other skeptically, and sometimes we are skeptical too. Sure, mediation involves dealing with conflict, but occasionally parties know it won't work to cooperate, and even we concur.
Parting Thoughts about DORA
Even if you decide after the DORA session that working together is not feasible, this is not a failure.
Getting information that both parties can build on, having an idea of what calculated figures can be, and knowing what issues may cause difficulties is an achievement in itself. It helps couples determine that maybe they do indeed have to go to court, or maybe our style just isn't for them.
Regardless, it has broken the stalemate of not talking about the issues and wondering what to do first. Parties are free to go their own ways and seek counsel (and probably court) on their own, or can agree to continue to work together and allow us to assist them.
The DORA does not mean being locked into a process, but rather taking the first step to understanding how to proceed, and then taking the next step that suits each spouse. However, if couples are otherwise encouraged to continue to work together and develop an agreement, then the next step in the process, be it developing an agreement on their own, or collaborative mediation, is much easier to take on together.
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All of the content here is for initial information purposes only and is not legal advice, is not presented as legal advice, and should not be construed as legal advice. All parties should retain their own attorneys in order to receive customized legal advice protected by attorney/client privilege .