Today we’re taking a look at Head & Hands’ former Do-it-Yourself Divorce service! To find out how it worked, we caught up with two people involved in the service back in the day—former participant Cheryl, and Gabor, who has been a lawyer at the H&H Legal Clinic since the mid-1970s.
If you have memories to share about DIY Divorce, please do in the comments! But for now…story time!
I learned about the do-it–yourself divorce course from a newspaper ad. I was separated from my husband and didn’t have the money to see a lawyer so I decided to take this amazing opportunity. The course was given by this lovely lady, Sandra Frost, who unfortunately died several years ago, but I will never forget her.
The course was free and we met as a group in varying intervals. Sandra expertly guided us all through each step. She gave us the information by giving us all copies of every document that had to be typed out, in what order, how many copies needed to be typed, and which department of the courts that they had to be presented to. It was time consuming especially given that no one used a computer back in the day! I had never even learned how to type so making four mistake-free carbon copies took me forever, but Sandra encouraged us every step of the way.
After all of the documents had been prepared and filed we waited to find out through the mail what our date at court would be. Because it had to be a no-fault divorce, that is to say, the spouses involved would not be contesting anything, we did not use the services of a lawyer and we represented ourselves in court. Sandra also explained to us what to expect and how to comport ourselves in front of a judge. It was quite a nerve-wracking experience, to say the least, as the atmosphere in the courtroom was daunting and the judge was very imposing and I was very young!
However, the only thing that I had to pay was the fee for the bailiff to present my papers to my soon-to-be ex husband, around $50. After it was all over, my sister and I went out for lunch with my now ex-husband. It was very civilized! I will always be grateful to H&H for the amazing help that I received from them at this time in my life when I needed it.
- Cheryl: former client, current volunteer and donor
I don’t remember when H & H started the service but it seems it was more than 20 years ago. It was important because many people had simple uncontested divorces and could not afford the $500 to $1000 divorce fees that lawyers were charging. Some people who could afford to pay the lawyer’s fees but wanted to control their own divorce file and did not want to be at the mercy of their lawyer also took the course.
Of course the same situation exists today in that some people have simple divorces but can`t afford the fees, especially the increased fees lawyers now charge. Unfortunately the procedure in court has become more complicated especially where child support is payable and a course that used to take, I believe about six or so sessions, might require a few more.
- Gabor Glasz: volunteer lawyer at the Head & Hands legal clinic, former board member
Head & Hands no longer offers DIY Divorce classes, but we do have a legal clinic where community members can speak with a family lawyer, and a legal coordinator who is there to help youth with all legal queries. In the last year alone, our volunteer family lawyers assisted with 157 cases!