Q: We have been separated for a year and have now decided to call it quits. I met with a few divorce attorneys, but their prices seem awfully steep. Isn’t this something I can do myself? 

-G.N., Signal Hill

Ron Sokol

A: I start with an old adage that may not be well-received, but here goes: “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Now, that said, I know some folks who have handled their own divorce. In one instance, a gentleman did it himself; his wife had a lawyer. There were some bumps along the way, but ultimately it was concluded. Also, online there are resources that can provide a level of guidance. The California courts, for example, have details on divorce at: courts.ca.gov/selfhelp-divorce. Certain questions come to mind: How much property is there?  Are there items you and your spouse agree on? Any kids? Typically, there are certain steps to the divorce process: (a) preparing to file, (b) filing, (c) serving the papers, (d) response by the other side, (e) temporary orders while the divorce is pending, (f) financial disclosures, (g) possible discovery, (h) settlement negotiations, (i) trial otherwise, and (j) judgment (if not post-judgment issues). There are companies that lend a hand in divorces; it is up to you if you reach out to someone for assistance. Given the legal forms required, niceties of family law and what may be at stake, it is prudent to give serious consideration to having the assistance of qualified counsel.

Q: What are the basics on financial disclosure in a divorce case? 

M.C., Westwood

A: Spouses have a fiduciary duty to each other. This means a heightened level of loyalty. As such, each is required to be “an open book” and allow the spouse to know the full financial picture, including items owned prior to the marriage. It can help to put all the cards on the table to hopefully cause less skirmishing about whether one or the other is concealing anything. It also helps to clarify what all is there, including liabilities. Keep in mind that each side is to file a financial disclosure within 60 days of filing his or her initial paperwork in the divorce proceeding.

Ron Sokol is a Manhattan Beach attorney with more than 35 years of experience. His column, which appears in print on Wednesdays, presents a summary of the law and should not be construed as legal advice. Email questions and comments to him at ronsesq@gmail.com.

Sign up for The Localist, our daily email newsletter with handpicked stories relevant to where you live. Subscribe here.