Can couples DIY their divorce?
Well, technically, yes. They’re allowed to file a divorce without the help of a lawyer and go through every stage of the process on their own. But if you were in their shoes, would you?
Let’s pause for a minute to look at what you usually DIY (do-it-yourself). If you want to repair your bathroom’s broken toilet, you can watch a YouTube video on how to fix a toilet (47 million results!). If you want to fix a home appliance, you can easily visit an online forum and ask. The Internet is a powerful tool.
But, though there may be online guides to how to file a divorce case, it may not be as simple as buying the tools and doing the fix. It involves many aspects, including industry knowledge. Here are a few reasons a DIY divorce is not recommended.
What to Expect in a DIY Divorce
Partners who want to go on their separate ways may assume they can save money and time by handling the divorce process themselves. This isn’t always the case. A divorce requires a lot of paperwork. You need to fill out and submit forms for nearly everything the divorce would affect, such as name changes, visitation rights, and child custody and support.
Then, there’s the challenge of appearing in court. You have to show up in court at the allotted time and basically play the role of an attorney. You need to get all the evidence ready, prep witnesses for questioning (if any), and respond to all questions and arguments properly.
DIY Divorce Dangers
If you’re thinking of acting as a divorce lawyer for your own case, you may want to consider these potential horror stories:
- Clerical Errors – Failure to understand important legal jargon could result in major clerical mistakes, especially as you fill out and submit a mountain of paperwork. Common problems include ticking off the wrong checkboxes and using the wrong words. While experienced divorce attorneys aren’t necessarily immune to these blunders, they are less likely to incur clerical errors.
- Miscommunication – Another potential drawback of DIY divorce is the difficulty you may encounter in communicating your terms to your spouse (who is on the other side of the fence in this case). Laying out what you want for your divorce is critical to meeting your needs. A lawyer can present it flawlessly. If your grasp of divorce-related legal terms is poor, however, you may not get your desired result.
- Overlooked Tax Concerns – Taxation and divorce concerns go hand in hand. The ever-changing tax legislation makes DIY divorce particularly perilous. The wrong child support or alimony arrangements could leave you struggling come tax season. A skilled attorney understands your divorce’s sensitive tax implications and can walk you through accordingly.
- Failing to Divide Property – Partners who want to take the DIY divorce route may overlook the main aspects of property division. Incomplete provisions, for instance, may leave couples liable for future mortgage payments.
- More Stress – The term “Do It Yourself” implies that a task is easy. Divorce is anything but a walk in the park. Going at it alone is incredibly stressful than going through a divorce in a lawyer-guided process. This pressure may prevent you from thinking clearly or rationally and making sound decisions for yourself.
With so many drawbacks, tackling the divorce process yourself is not a good idea. Rather than take on the process solo, it’s best to seek a law firm and employ the services of an experienced and capable legal counsel.