Want a Kitchen Table Divorce?


Divorce is extremely expensive and stressful.  Join Attorney and Mediator Erin Birt and Paralegal Tyler Birt to learn what is a Kitchen Table Divorce, who can have a Kitchen Table Divorce and tips for a successful Kitchen Table Divorce. If you are frustrated thinking of high legal fees and feel you don't need that, this episode is for you! For legal assistance or mediation services, contact us at (630) 891-2478 or at www.birtlaw.com.

Want a Kitchen Table Divorce?

[00:04] Erin Birt: Welcome to the Restorative Divorce podcast, where we focus on all things divorce and parenting related. To help you find clarity, stay informed, and stay out of family court. With 20 plus years of family law experience, our attorney and mediator, Erin Birt, has seen too many times how family court will negatively impact your health, your relationship with your kids, and your wallet. This podcast aims to turn that around and empower our listeners to take back control of their family law process and their lives by working with divorced professionals that seek to help and not hurt. Our goal is to provide you with expert tips that you can implement today to restore your finances, emotional wellbeing and coparenting skills. Of course, our team at birtlaw.com is always here to customize a restorative divorce plan for you. But for now, listen to this episode to get help today.

[01:05] Erin Birt: Today we want to talk about what is a kitchen table divorce, what it is, what you can do, and how we can help you.

[01:13] Tyler Birt: That sounds good.

[01:15] Erin Birt: So Tyler, what do you think a kitchen table divorce is?

What is a Kitchen Table Divorce?

[01:18] Tyler Birt: Well, to me, kitchen table divorce is two people, a couple, who's really looking to minimize costs of the divorce. I think people think about getting divorced, they may be there, they may be ready to get divorced. But knowing and talking to other people, divorce can be expensive. And so I think that people think, "if we sit down and figure it out ourselves, we can save a lot of money."

[01:44] Erin Birt: In these days, saving a lot of money is a number one priority. It is expensive to grocery shop, to go out to eat, to travel to see family or friends. And people are prioritizing where they need to spend their money. A lot of times that is not on a lawyer when you feel that you can do the research and the negotiations yourself, right? And we actually provide a lot of informative resources for people to learn about the divorce process, learn about the details that need to be addressed in a divorce. And our hope is that that does help people in that group of people that can talk to their spouse about divorcing. And you can find valuable information on our social media accounts, on our blog, on our podcast. And we do hope that that helps people have conversations about divorce or sit down and have a kitchen table divorce where they work out the details at home. So what do you think are some tips for a successful kitchen table divorce? If people really want to take this process into their own hands, what do you think they can do?

Tips for a Successful Kitchen Table Divorce

[02:57] Tyler Birt: Well, I think one thing that people can do for kitchen table divorce is come up with an outline of things that need to be discussed in a divorce. I don't think you can just sit down with your partner and say, we're going to get a divorce. We need to split this, this and this. I think it's a little more detailed than that. Coming up with an outline is a good starting point to discuss, and it can keep you on track and help guide you through the process.

[03:24] Erin Birt: Preparation is key.

[03:25] Tyler Birt: Yes.

[03:26] Erin Birt: So developing your outline, whatever is important to you so that when you're sitting down and discussing emotionally challenging topics, you can stay on track, you can stay focused, and hopefully you can find some resolution. That outline, if you're doing a kitchen table divorce, really can be anything that you find important. It can be a list of things that you want to talk about about your children. When are you going to tell your children you're divorcing? How are you telling your children you're divorcing? What type of schedule do you think that you will have for your children after divorce? What are the considerations that you need to ensure that children are either remaining in school or changing schools? And what do their activities look like? How you're going to make decisions for your children? And then an outline of your financial items. What are your assets? What are your debts? What are your liabilities? Who's going to keep what? What is going to be divided? How is it going to be divided? So I think you're right. An outline is key to having a successful kitchen table divorce.

[04:36] Tyler Birt: Yeah. And I think that when you come up with this outline, you can start to see right away, is the couple able to do a kitchen table divorce, especially when you're starting to break down finances? Right? If there's financial infidelity, adultery, things like that going on, which is causing the breakdown in the relationship, you're starting to get into places where you don't want to discuss over at the kitchen table. So it's important to realize that, like you said at the beginning of this kind of breaks it down to who actually can go through a kitchen table divorce, but having it outlined and being open to it is a good place to be.

[05:15] Erin Birt: Yeah. And I think it is a good starting point. If you both think that you're able to sit down and have a serious conversation about divorce and you're both safe, your children are safe, I encourage you having that discussion because it will either, as you just said, allow you to assess, "Can you continue this process? Is it emotionally too hard? Do you not have adequate information to complete that process? Or are you in over your head? And you do need professional help?" So either way, it's going to help you identify issues. And so just having that conversation, it might take a few table meetings to accomplish it. You have to be open to multiple discussions. If you find after that first kitchen table discussion that you don't think that this is appropriate for your family, we're here to help. We're here to help you also identify that outline, to organize you so that you can have productive conversations at home. If you want some support while you're going through a kitchen table divorce, we can definitely help develop that outline. But I think it's important for you to realize that you should be organized, and you might need to have multiple discussions with this person. Right.

[06:34] Tyler Birt: And we can help in that organization of an outline that you mentioned, because you should lay out all the topics you want to discuss. But to actually get a divorce in Illinois, you need to have certain things. Items need to be included in any agreement that satisfies the jurisdiction of where you're getting divorced. In a marital settlement agreement, yes.

[06:57] Erin Birt: We can keep you on task with the relevant information and identify all of those legal issues that have to be resolved within your contract, and that helps it become an enforceable divorce judgment at the end of the day. But I wanted to circle back. You made a point earlier, Tyler, about the type of family or the type of couple that might even be able to have a kitchen table divorce.

Who Can Have a Kitchen Table Divorce?

I wanted to talk a little bit more about that because there's this concept of what's called soft reasons for a divorce. For instance, people feel maybe they've outgrown one another or they have different interests in life and they just don't find those interests compatible anymore. Or they just simply don't like each other anymore and they find that they're fighting too much and they think it would be better to get divorced. Those are some soft reasons for divorce that I think are appropriate for a kitchen table divorce. If you have some of these other hard reasons for divorce or complex reasons for divorce, it could be physical abuse, mental abuse, alcohol addiction, drug addiction. It could be adultery or infidelity. If there's a complete lack of trust, you might find that this kitchen table divorce process is not appropriate for you.

[08:20] Tyler Birt: Right. Well, the idea saving money is a goal. Some of those hard reasonings for divorce, there's no trust in a relationship. There's no way to really sit down and discuss the most appropriate ways to handle things, right?

[08:34] Erin Birt: So if there's any hard reasons for a divorce involved, that's going to make your divorce complex and you need an added layer of protection, reach out to us sooner rather than later. If you have some of those soft reasons for a divorce, and not to minimize those reasons, but perhaps it's more "we're just not in this partnership any longer" or whatever soft reason there is, this kitchen table divorce is most likely for you.

Tips for a Kitchen Table Divorce

Our tips are: be organized. Gather financial information as early as possible. Have an outline for things that you want to discuss. Be open to multiple discussions. Even as a mediator, people will call me and say, "how long is mediation going to take? This is simple. We probably can just knock this out in one session." Right? And I can say in 20 years of mediating cases, I probably have one or two cases that we did actually accomplish in one session, but we had very limited issues to discuss, and they perhaps either had the court work out all the other issues beforehand, or they were just able to work out the issues. But if you were thinking of a kitchen table divorce and you have both parenting and financial issues to resolve, just know it's probably not going to get finished in just one discussion. You're going to have a series. I would say, though, if you get to maybe a third meeting and you're not feeling like you're resolving your differences or that you have a really good understanding of your financial circumstances or what the plan looks like for your children. I would say after that third kitchen table talk, if you're not resolving your differences, it's time to probably pick up the phone, call our office and sit down for a planning session, because we will be able to move you forward. Right? Under the best of circumstances, you might have it in two or three sessions. If you're getting past a third session, if you're being productive, continue it. If you're not being productive, that might be a time to start building your divorce team so that you can continue discussions productively.

The other thing about a kitchen table divorce that our listeners might not realize, you still need an attorney or you still have court involvement at the end. Right? The judge still needs to approve whatever agreement you came up with. So that means somebody needs to have the time and resources or energy to be able to draft your agreement and submit it to the court for the court's approval. There's a pro se courtroom, and at least in DuPage County, other counties in Illinois also have self represented or pro se courtrooms that can help you. There are simplified forms. If you don't have a complex estate or you don't own property, forms are available online that you can fill out. But I would say a bulk of divorces, you own a home, you have bank accounts, you have children issues. It can get complicated pretty quickly if you need to draft a financial settlement document as well as a parenting plan.

[11:56] Tyler Birt: Even if you have everything worked out, it all needs to be drafted into legal language.

[12:01] Erin Birt: Right.

[12:02] Tyler Birt: And the courts require certain forms.

[12:06] Erin Birt: Yeah. Just having the agreement reached around the kitchen table is not your final step. There's a few more tasks that you need to complete before you actually finalize your divorce. And again, I just gave you some resources of how you can do that on your own. And a lot of families do, and a lot of families say, okay, I've done all of the hard work, I've sat down with my spouse, we've worked out all of the details, and now I'll hire an attorney for the limited scope of finalizing the case in court. 

We recently had a case like that. I believe we were out of Lake County. They found us through this topic of a kitchen table divorce. They worked out all details. They did not have children, but they worked out all of their financial details on their own. They came to our office, we verified information. We still looked at financial documents that they produced to one another, and we wrote up their financial settlement agreement, and we finalized it in court for a much lower cost and for less time that they invested in the process than would have otherwise taken if they did not do a kitchen table divorce.

[13:18] Tyler Birt: Sure.

[13:18] Erin Birt: And so they were pretty satisfied with that service. They didn't have to deal with the headache of the court system. And we were able to take their kitchen table divorce agreement, put that into a legal document, and they were both then ready and comfortable with signing the document. They are now living separately, but it's my understanding they're still able to talk to one another. And it wasn't a very acrimonious divorce, all because they started with a kitchen table divorce and then realized they just wanted some additional help and legal support to finalize the case. Do you think there's other things that they need to know about with a kitchen table divorce?

[13:57] Tyler Birt: Just being open to the time of discussions and what the discussions are about, I think you'll learn stuff along the way you may not have known or realized. So just being open and honest at the kitchen table, I think will give people their best chance at completing the task.

[14:16] Erin Birt: Yeah, I agree. We've talked about it earlier today, but realizing there's a lot of things that will influence your divorce process, whether that's a kitchen table divorce or filing a divorce case in court, there are many things that are going to influence your productivity, the timing or how many times you have to meet. That can be health related issues. That could be delays with obtaining financial documentation. That could be just emotional delays. Usually one party is ready to divorce, and the other party might be reluctant or ambivalent. You have to realize it's more than just paperwork. You're dealing with an intimate issue. You won't see eye to eye on everything, and it takes time, but we're here to help you. If you get the whole kitchen table divorce accomplished, we can take over and deal with all the details. If you missed any topics that your county says you need to resolve or says there's a task you need to do, we will inform you of that, and we will help you through the process so that your kitchen table divorce is in compliance with any Illinois court that is going to need to review and approve your settlement. Thanks for listening to our podcast today about a successful kitchen table divorce. You can contact us for any help at birtlaw.com or give us a call at 630-891-2478 we have a lot of free resources on our website and blog that can help you further, but if you need additional one on one support, we can also provide you with legal advice and pertinent information to finish your kitchen table divorce.

[16:10] Erin Birt: Thanks for listening to the Restorative Divorce podcast with your host, attorney and mediator, Erin Birt, and our paralegal, Tyler Birt. A special thanks to our contributors and to the authors of the many articles that inspire us and keep our clients informed. We hope you enjoyed our deep dive into the separation, divorce or parenting tips covered today that you can use now to help restore yourself. If you strive to improve your life or the lives of your children after a separation or divorce, join us next week when we will cover more restorative divorce topics. You can head over to birtlaw.com to get the podcast transcripts, follow us on social media and even find more valuable family law information all for your benefit. Get help today and work with us one on one. Contact us to set up a consultation or planning session to start rebuilding your life today. Enjoy this day and we'll see you next time.

If you are considering a change because of a family issue or a divorce, you may want to also read about our services for: Divorce, Uncontested Divorce, Collaborative Divorce, Family Law Mediation, Child Custody, Child Support, Client Wellness, and Legal Wellness Services.

Our Attorneys

  • Erin Birt

    Since 2003, Erin N. Birt, J.D., CADC has focused her practice on pa...

  • Tyler Birt

    Since 2007, Tyler Birt has been a legal assistant and bookkeeper fo...


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