When contemplating divorce — I mean really taking the time to think about what’s involved throughout the beginning, middle, and end — it’s no wonder we may be drawn to any path that promises an uncomplicated journey through what’s so often a difficult process.
The promises are enticing, indeed. Claims such as “Divorce doesn’t have to be difficult” and “You can do it in the privacy of your own home without an attorney,” while true in some cases, seem to imply that lawyers somehow pollute the process (I assure we don’t!).
That said, do you need an attorney to handle your divorce, or can you truly do it yourself?
Thanks to the Internet, “Do-It-Yourself Divorce” has evolved into a concept we’ll call the “online option”.
What is the online option? In most states, you can download and complete all the necessary divorce forms from a website, and file and serve them yourself without a lawyer. There are also online services that, for a fee, offer to complete your forms based on answers you provide in a standard questionnaire. In most cases, your completed forms are then mailed to you with state-specific instructions on how to file and serve them. (Click the following for Online Resources For Your Divorce).
The “online option” is not for everyone. In fact, it’s for very few. Whether it’s right for you depends on the following factors:
Is your matter uncontested?
“Do-it-yourself divorce” is only appropriate for divorces which are certain to be uncontested. That means the divorcing couple completely agrees on all issues, including the grounds for divorce (in those states requiring grounds), as well as how the property and debts will be divided.
Are there children?
If there are children involved, then custody, visitation, and child support will need to be agreed upon, communicated properly in your divorce papers, and not run counter to any specific state laws.
Are there future assets?
It’s important to also consider whether there are assets to be split in the future. For example, let’s say the house is going to be sold and the proceeds divided at a later date. Or one of the parties will be entitled to a portion of the other’s pension benefits upon retirement. In these and similar instances, online divorce may not be for you, as these issues, even if uncontested, require complex contractual agreements to ensure each party is protected once the ink is dry on the divorce decree.
In addition to these factors, you should keep the following in mind:
The Online Option requires strict attention to details
“The devil is in the details”. Never has an adage been truer than when handling your own divorce. Even if you and your husband have agreed (in spirit) to cooperate, the court will still require that all rules are followed to the letter. You must provide proof of various legal requirements to the court, pay the correct fees, and literally ensure all the “i”s are dotted and the “t”s crossed before a judge can sign your judgment of divorce.
If your divorce is not completed correctly, there could be consequences affecting things as monumental as your financial security, and even remarriage (remember, bigamy is not yourfriend).
No such thing as “one-size-fits-all” divorce
Divorce, like marriage, takes work. It’s never one-size-fits-all. But if you’re one of the few who can “agree to agree” with your spouse, and all other circumstances fall in line, the “online option” just might work.
And if not, rest assured there are plenty ofintelligent, experienced, pesky lawyers happy to guide you through the process in a way that’s best suited for you.
Click the following for more articles and resource videos on Getting A Divorce.