Divorce can be expensive — and couples often try to save money by representing themselves rather than seek the assistance of an attorney. Unfortunately, divorce is not one-size-fits-all. Ending a marriage is a complex legal process with various components. While there are online programs that offer do it yourself divorce services, dissolving your marriage without the guidance of an attorney is a bad idea for a number of critical reasons.
Disadvantages of a DIY Divorce in California
A DIY divorce is entirely legal. Significantly, the terms upon which you and your spouse agree become binding once the judge signs your decree — whether you’re represented by an attorney or not. But it is important to be aware that a DIY divorce often has more disadvantages than advantages.
Some crucial reasons not to proceed with a DIY divorce include the following:
- Lack of legal advice — Every divorce has unique issues. Due to their legal knowledge and years of experience, an attorney can develop a strategy in your case that will result in the best possible outcome. Without proper legal advice, you could inadvertently forgo specific rights you have or suffer certain circumstances financial consequences.
- Costly mistakes can be made — Mistakes in a DIY divorce can be time-consuming and costly. Whether errors are made with filing papers or details are overlooked when entering into a settlement agreement, there can be serious ramifications. These types of mistakes can all be avoided by obtaining the help of an attorney at the outset of your case.
- Costs can increase substantially — While a DIY divorce might seem like a good way to save money that would otherwise be spent on litigation fees and attorneys, in many cases, it can cost more in the long run. Often, couples who start the DIY process end up realizing that divorce is much more complicated than they had initially thought and only retain an attorney after mistakes have been made.
- Community property may be overlooked — An attorney can help ensure you obtain your fair share of the property and assets acquired during the course of your marriage. But without an understanding of what constitutes separate property versus marital property, you could end up getting less than what you are entitled to by law. You can also uncover assets that your spouse may have hidden or dissipated with the help of a skilled divorce attorney.
- Emotions can sometimes get in the way — Divorce is one of the most stressful situations a person can face in their lifetime. If children are involved or there are a significant amount of assets that must be divided, it’s not unusual for a divorce to become contentious. Even if your divorce seems amicable at the outset, it’s not uncommon for disputes to arise later. When you work with an attorney, they can help ensure you remain objective rather than let your emotions dictate the outcome.
In addition, if your spouse has retained an attorney, it is highly advisable not to attempt a DIY divorce. Not only can dealing with your spouse’s attorney cause you to potentially be bullied, but when only one side is represented by counsel, there is a power imbalance. The only way to ensure your legal rights and financial interests will be protected is by having an attorney by your side throughout the duration of the divorce process.
Is a DIY Divorce Ever a Good Idea?
Regardless of the numerous disadvantages, a DIY divorce can work in some instances. For instance, if the marriage was relatively short, and there are no children or assets, you may be able to file for an uncontested divorce on your own. However, even when spouses are in agreement on all issues, it can still be a good idea to consult with an attorney so that you can be certain you are not overlooking any important details — or waiving any potential rights.
Additionally, regardless of whether your divorce is contested, there is still a considerable amount of paperwork that must be filed with the court. An attorney can make sure that all paperwork is correctly filled out and the documents are properly filed so that the process goes smoothly.
Alternatives to DIY Divorce
If you and your spouse agree on most issues in your divorce but there are still a few unresolved disputes by the time you’re ready to file, you might consider an alternative to litigation such as collaborative divorce.
Although attorneys can still be involved to provide legal advice and guidance, both processes can be cost-effective ways to divorce with minimal conflict. Unlike litigation in which a judge will render a decision if you and your spouse cannot reach a resolution concerning a matter in your divorce, mediation and collaborative divorce allow you and your spouse to control the outcome.
Contact an Experienced Fresno Divorce Attorney
If you’re considering parting ways with your spouse, it’s vital to have an experienced divorce attorney by your side who can help you navigate the process. Offering compassionate counsel and adept advocacy, the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks is dedicated to helping clients achieve favorable outcomes in their cases. The Law Offices of Rick D. Banks has been assisting clients throughout Fresno and the surrounding area with their divorce and family law matters for more than 20 years. To schedule a no obligation consultation, call (559) 272-8359.