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Do Your Own Divorce?

Just what does that mean, "Do your own divorce"? There are varying degrees of "Do it yourself divorces" From not using ANY professionals (not recommended); to using an attorney for advice and reviewing documents. It can make sense to do your own divorce if your situation is not complicated. If you have no substantial assets, no minor children or you are in a short term marriage than doing your own divorce may work in your case.

Certain situations should never be handled without a professional. They include:

  • Cases involving disputes in child custody.
  • If you believe your spouse is a danger to you or your children.
  • You are not able to get the necessary support for you and your children to live.
  • You believe your case would end up in the courtroom because of high conflict. Do not go in front of a judge to represent yourself at a trial!
  • You believe your spouse is transferring joint assets out of your name or hiding assets.
  • Your spouse has retained an attorney.

Ok, you don't fit into any of the above categories and you're still considering doing it yourself. Ask yourself the following questions before deciding:

  • Do you have the time and resources necessary to do it yourself? Don't be fooled into thinking you simply fill out a few forms, and you're divorced. Doing it yourself is going to be time consuming. In fact, it will may become an all-consuming part of your life.
  • Do you have the time to research your state laws regarding divorce? Research is time consuming and laws are often hard to understand or ambiguous. Do you have the ability to comprehend exactly what the different laws mean? Do you have access to the needed information? Remember that any settlement will have to fall within your state's divorce statutes.
  • Can you overcome the emotional upset and conflict? By nature, divorce is emotional. Anger, guilt, and blaming are common emotional issues you will have to deal with. If there were no conflict between you and your spouse you likely wouldn't be getting divorced. With that in mind, can both you and your spouse put those issues aside and negotiate a fair settlement?
  • Are you on equal ground with your spouse? Even if one person perceives themselves as at a disadvantaged there will be problems. Can you work together to get to equal ground before going forward? If one person feels to be at a disadvantage this will not work.

There are advantages to doing your own divorce. You might think the most obvious is the financial savings. Don't be fooled. A poorly structured settlement agreement can be more costly to correct after the fact. Keep in mind that this agreement will:

  • Divide your property as well as your debts.
  • Decide parenting issues such as custody, visitation, and child support.
  • Determine if alimony applies and the amount be paid.

While you may want to do your divorce entirely on your own, that may not be in anybody's best interest. You should consider using the services of the following professionals:

  • Lawyer: to review your agreement to ensure it is in the proper form and falls within the word of the law.
  • Mediator: if you and your spouse have come to an issue that you cannot agree upon this doesn't mean you have to give up doing it yourself. A mediator will help you focus on the particular issue at hand and work through it.
  • Counselor: such as psychologist or social worker. If you and your spouse are having a problem, overcoming the emotional part of the divorce you may want to consider counseling either together or separately.
  • Paralegal: you can use a paralegal to help fill out forms and type your agreement. BEWARE, paralegals are NOT lawyers. You may be tempted to use one like a lawyer, but don't. They are not licensed, so there are no standards to qualify as a paralegal. Anyone can call himself or herself a paralegal.
  • Accountant: There will be tax considerations when dividing your assets and debts. It may be cost effective to pay an accountant for a consultation in order to save on taxes. Why make Uncle Sam happy due to your lack of knowledge about tax law.

The biggest advantage to doing it yourself will be the amount of control you will be able to maintain. Your settlement agreement will be the way you both want it to be. You will not be at the mercy of a judge who can impose his own opinions and attitudes on your situation. It is human nature to be more cooperative and compliant to an agreement that you helped create.

Given all the above information, keep in mind this is not a simple situation. There are both emotional and financial issues to be considered. Remember the old saying, "Don't be penny wise and pound foolish." Do not take doing it yourself lightly. If you do, you will surely regret it down the road.

Additional Divorce Resources and Information:

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