The Kitchen Table Divorce: Tips and Tools
Every divorce is unique; they range from highly contentious affairs that take years to finalize to simple agreeable divorces that are completed in under a year.
At The Law Firm of Erin N. Birt, P.C., we believe that legal services should be tailored to the type of divorce. One unique approach that works for many amicable divorces is a kitchen table divorce.
What is a Kitchen Table Divorce?
A kitchen table divorce (“KTD”) is a divorce where the parties sit down and reach an agreement on the terms of their divorce “over the kitchen table.”
It contrasts to drawn-out divorces where the parties only communicate through their respective attorneys and have judges make the final decisions. The reference to the kitchen table is figurative—divorcing couples can discuss their divorce anywhere, and it may take multiple discussions to reach a final decision.
Tips for a Successful Kitchen Table Divorce
If you plan on a kitchen table divorce, these three essential tips will help make it an effective process.
Outline Discussion Points
Before you jump into discussing what you need to agree upon, sit down and outline the discussion points. Having an outline to follow will help guide the process, keep temperatures cool, and ensure that you cover all required topics.
Be sure that the outline covers any legally required components of a marital settlement agreement. At a minimum, you will need to discuss the division of assets and debts, including property, vehicles, retirement accounts, investment accounts, credit cards, and loans. If children are involved, you will also need to discuss timesharing and child support, and child support must comply with state guidelines.
Be Open to Multiple Discussions
There is often an impulse to get everything knocked out in one meeting. This is sometimes possible, but often trying to push through everything in a long meeting ends up exhausting both parties and making them feel less aligned. Instead, it is better to take more time and ensure that the agreement is mutually agreed upon and in everyone's best interests.
One approach is to cover the easy topics first – those issues that you and your spouse are in 100% agreement on—then cover the issues that need more discussion in subsequent meetings. You can also use divorce mediation for assistance in making decisions on the more challenging topics. These days, online divorce mediation is available, making it easier than ever to take advantage of the benefits of mediation.
Finalize Your Divorce
One of the most common mistakes in a kitchen table divorce is failing to finalize the agreement. Reaching an oral agreement or even signing a self-prepared document does not create a binding marital settlement agreement. For an agreement to be legally enforceable, you must submit it to the court and obtain an order from a judge approving the agreement.
Do You Need an Attorney for a Kitchen Table Divorce?
You are not legally required to have an attorney for a kitchen table divorce. However, it is highly advisable to use an attorney to assist with the process. An attorney can help ensure you cover all required and advisable topics during divorce discussions, put your decisions into a written agreement, carry out the court process for finalizing your divorce.
The attorney's role in a KTD is much more limited than in a traditional, litigated divorce. This means less money spent upfront. However, an attorney will also help a divorcing couple avoid costly mistakes that can arise down the line if divorce agreements don't cover all of the relevant issues or are not adequately finalized.
At The Law Firm of Erin N. Birt, P.C., we offer in-person and online family and divorce mediation. Whether you need minimal assistance in finalizing a kitchen table divorce or full-service divorce services, we can help you through the type of divorce that is right for you. To learn more, contact us today at (630) 891-2478.