In the age of Google and DIY divorce websites, many couples today are considering the option of a do-it-yourself divorce. While free "legal" advice and forms are available on the internet, more people have a false sense of confidence they can obtain the best results by not retaining a family law attorney. However, this has not been my experience.
Downloading a form to handle your divorce to save money may sound great in theory, but in reality, it can create a number of costly problems. This is true even when both parties agree on everything.
3 reasons why handling your divorce without legal help is never advised
Below are three common reasons why you should avoid a DIY divorce:
1. Simple divorces are never truly simple
At first, you and your spouse may think you agree on all aspects of your divorce. You may think that your property and assets will be easy to divide. You are confident that the divorce proceedings will run smoothly without any impediments.
However, divorces are rarely ever this simple. As couples advance through the divorce process, disputes often arise regarding miniscule details. Logistics that involve dividing marital assets, outlining custody agreements and determining child support, among many other important issues often create points of conflict.
If you attempt to resolve disputes without any attorney on your side to advocate for your interests, your divorce could get messy and turn costly. The short version of the story is that a person does not know what they do not know to ask.
2. Unnecessary costs
The money in a 401(k) or other retirement accounts are often a couple's most valuable assets. When a couple opts to divorce, splitting these assets without legal assistance could turn costly, as you risk incurring a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty, or other tax ramifications which often cost more than the attorney fees with a fraction of the headache..
To avoid this unnecessary penalty, a skilled family law attorney can help you minimize the tax burden you may not know exist. A knowledgeable family law attorney can also explain this in greater detail and offer advice on whether it will be beneficial to your situation.
3. Failing to file correctly
In Pennsylvania, a divorce requires more than simply filing out one form and filing with the court. You will need to complete specific documents and follow procedural requirements. Failing to follow necessary steps could compromise your interests, delay your divorce for weeks, or even months, and cost you more money in the long run.
Think of all the home do-it-yourself TV shows featuring people who take on a renovation project. They think it will be simple, yet later find themselves in over their head and wind up calling a contractor to fix the mistake.
This often costs the homeowner more money in the end. When it comes to divorce, the same rule applies. Hiring an experienced family law attorney who knows what they are doing can save you time, hassle and headache.