When it comes to divorce, you’re likely looking for the most inexpensive method possible. Do it yourself divorce offers a way to save money, as it is entirely lawyer-free. However, there is a right and a wrong way to go about DIY divorce, and knowing all the details will help you in the long run.
What is It?
Simply put, DIY divorce is a cheap alternative to divorce court. Some feel lawyers are far too costly, or their lawyer has recently dumped them. DIY divorce offers an easy fix for both issues. Many feel that by opting for the route without lawyers, they’ll maintain a friendly relationship with their ex.
As long as there is no contest in the divorce, you can file all of the paperwork yourself. After submitting the paperwork to your local courthouse (or online in some cases), you may be finished with the process. In other cases, the court will mail you an appointment for mediation. The mediator will not have a side in the divorce, rather guide the conversation and the topics that you and your spouse should cover.
The Pitfalls of Do It Yourself Divorce
Many who opt for a DIY divorce find it comes back to bite them. Typically, those seeking a divorce do not fill out the paperwork correctly. Sometimes online divorces have no financial agreements or consent forms signed. So your spouse may be entitled to any wealth you acquire after your divorce. For example, if you did a DIY divorce and won the lottery months later, your ex could be privy to some of the cash. The divorce itself doesn’t protect you from your ex bringing claims against you.
Because there is no tangible, court-certified document verifying the divorce, couples are still married in the eyes of the court. If you have a do it yourself divorce and remarry years later, police could arrest you for bigamy.
These divorces also have a one-size-fits-all approach, meaning documents do not take additional assets and issues regarding children into account. It is strictly administrative, rather than keeping all financial assets in mind.
What Can You do to Prevent Pitfalls?
DIY divorces are simple if you have all of the facts and know where to go for questions. Follow these tips and tricks to be sure you’re doing what’s best for you in your divorce:
- Ask yourself if you addressed all financial questions in your divorce. You should have zero doubt that your finances are just that — yours.
- Obtain a Decree Absolute. This verifies to the court that your divorce is legal and officially recognized.
- Remember the pensions. Up to 85% of women don’t realize they can account for their spouse’s pension plan, which can end up being worth thousands of dollars.
- Obtain a court order to dismiss any and all financial claims. This will give you a clean financial break, as financial assets are one of the biggest pitfalls of a do it yourself divorce primarily because there is no time limit to file a financial claim.
- Seek legal advice beforehand. In instances where you represent yourself before the court, they may refuse your petition.
- Amending the petition can be costly between the court fees, so it is best to acquire legal counsel before filing.
- Know what you need. You will irritate everyone in the courtroom if you show up with your files out of order, or worse, missing. If you’re unsure of what you need to take, take all of your legal documents to be safe.
- Have a system. Whether you are going to divorce court DIY or submitting your divorce online, having your affairs in order is a priority. Many lawyers organize by file type then by date. It doesn’t matter how you organize, but you must have easy access to any document a judge or prompt requests.
Specific to Courtroom DIY
- Dress to impress. While we can all individually believe that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, the outside counts in the courtroom. Judges want to see you show respect for the court, so showing up in sweatpants or swimsuits is not ideal for your case.
- If you’re on time, you’re late. There is a lot to figure out in courthouses, and you should allow yourself the time to find everything — parking, security, the courtroom. The case can and will proceed without you.
- Judge is king. Do not argue or speak over the judge, and know the rules of the courtroom you’re in (which vary from house to house).
DIY divorce can be a service to you, however contacting a lawyer beforehand is in your best interest. Contact us for a consultation to keep your best interests and assets at heart.