Area of Law:
Do It Yourself Divorce Can Be Costly
Divorce makes up the largest volume of cases in any court system, and the type of case that appears with the most do-it-yourselfers is divorce. The vast majority of these people are using DIY divorce kits. These kits are available at most courts, online, and though various services. The kits are cheap and appear to be easy. But that is deceptive. A DIY kit is also an excellent way to botch your divorce and create expensive, complex headaches.
One problem with DIY divorce kits is the fact that problems are not readily apparent at the time you get your divorce. Most legal problems that stem from divorce final judgments do not make themselves known until several years after the divorce. The types of problems are as varied as the types of issues in each divorce. Most people assume the case won’t go through if there is a problem with the paperwork. But that is far from the truth. The clerk of court is forbidden from “practicing law.” The same goes for the judge – once they are elected to the bench they cannot give legal advice. The bottom line is that no one in the court system is allowed to advise you on your documents. So more often than not a defective set of documents will make it to the end and become part of your final judgment. Your case may be deceptively smooth even if there are hidden time bombs concealed in the documents.
A typical event that triggers problems is when you and your spouse disagree on a particular issue. Many times this will not occur until a year or two after the case is over. An examination of the final judgment frequently exposes something that is completely unclear, unaddressed, or that does not make sense. If this is an important issue the end result is a war of words – with each side claiming they know what the documents really mean. When this happens, the only way to cure it is to take the issue back to court. This usually results in a complex, expensive fight with unsure results.
Another problem that tends to pop up is language that is completely unenforceable – by legal standards. Many people know what they want and are able to put it in writing. However, that does not mean it is enforceable. Provisions concerning children must match up with court standards – and what a judge will find reasonable. Provisions concerning money and failure to pay money must match up with applicable legal requirements. DIY divorce kits simply do not equip people with enough knowledge to craft a legally enforceable agreement.
The biggest problem with DIY divorce kits arises when the situation completely blows up. If the documents are defective, what would have been simple to fix when the two of you were in agreement become impossible to fix when the two of you are at odds. Simple and inexpensive issues become huge complex problems and the money needed to fix the situation dwarfs in comparison to the money saved on the DIY kit.
Many attorneys offer limited services that can save you money. Those services will always be more expensive than a DIY divorce kit but they are always cheaper in the long run. Divorce attorneys are trained to spot potential problems and any good divorce attorney has seen and addressed hundreds of court situations where things have gone wrong. That experience is used in document preparation to avoid many potential future problems. DIY divorce kits can save you money now, but at the risk of a huge price later.