Today, spouses seeking a divorce have more options than ever before. That’s especially true in the age of internet, when many people turn to the web-based services and support that may have previously required them to hire professionals. Although many online services and other “Do-it-Yourself” services offer assistance with the divorce process, there’s still a lot to be said about the invaluable support and counsel a qualified and licensed professional can provide. Having a real person who will work personally with you to protect your rights and interests in a legal process is invaluable—especially when such proceedings can have such an overwhelming impact on your future.
At Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers, many potential clients across Collin and Denton Counties contact us when considering a divorce. Sometimes, we’ll hear concerns regarding whether or not they truly need a lawyer to handle the process ahead, or whether they should give a DIY divorce a go. Our answer is that for any seemingly positive attributes DIY services may provide, there are many risks and drawbacks that should make you think twice about using a service that does not incorporate the assistance of an attorney at all.
In the most general of terms, divorce is a legal process by which a marriage is terminated. While that may seem simple enough, it is important to remember that divorce proceedings are designed to unravel all that has been comingled and entangled during a marriage – not to mention address a multitude of issues subject to laws, procedural rules, and issues of their own. Add to this the potential for emotional turbulence, dispute and disagreement, and unforeseen issues and you’ll quickly find that divorce is a complex process filled with innumerable moving parts – many of which laymen (non-attorneys) are simply unfamiliar with or ill-equipped to tackle pro se, or “on one’s own behalf.”
Drawbacks of a DIY Divorce
Because choosing the right attorney to help you through the divorce process can make all the difference in your case, our family lawyers want to delve a little deeper into why strictly DIY divorces aren’t always as simple, straightforward, or successful as they may seem.
- Multiple Issues – A divorce is more than ending a marriage. It is a proceeding that carefully evaluates and resolves a number of issues that can become entwined between two spouses. This can include matters of property division (which in itself can involve complex issues of finances and distribution of assets and debts), child custody and support, spousal support (alimony), temporary orders while a divorce is pending, out-of-court negotiations, potential litigation, appearances before judges, filings, legal work, and deadlines, among many others. While you may think you have a lock on some issues, taking on a divorce on your own puts you at risk of having to address multiple issues you may not understand or know how to effectively resolve.
- Risks for Poor Outcomes – Not being able to effectively address and resolve all aspects of your divorce is certainly a major factor that can adversely affect the outcome of your case. Additionally, because there are many procedural rules and requirements to abide by in divorce, failing to comply with more practical matters of the legal process, such as filing requirements and deadlines, also has real risks for complications that impact proceedings and final outcomes. These slight errors could cost you thousands of dollars and countless months of time to fix.
- Every Divorce is Different – No marriage or divorce is the same, and divorce proceedings are highly unfit for one-size-fits all formulas. Your divorce is as unique as you are—your assets, debts, desires, and deepest wishes are not the same as others around you. There are unique issues in your divorce that must be addressed in relation to your unique circumstances (such as the division of retirement accounts or pensions, unique or complex assets like stocks and investments, or issues like domestic violence). You and your soon-to-be-former spouse likely have different positions or, at the very least, a different understanding of your situations, needs, and goals that will need to be reconciled as all matters are addressed and resolved. DIY divorces rarely account for the intricacies that arise when real people have unique and vastly different circumstances. Applying a strategy that does not align with your goals or circumstances can expose you to the risk of a poor outcome—and future litigation.
- Lack of Insight and Options – DIY divorce services offer little insight when it comes to your possible options. Such insight is derived from real, hands-on experience of attorneys who have helped diverse clientele with a range of issues similar and not-so-similar to your own. By working with a real attorney who has experience with divorce, you can benefit from the insight of a professional who can help you understand what to expect with your given circumstances, as well as the information you need to evaluate your options and make informed decisions. When you follow guidelines in a book or website, you risk not exploring other options that could be better or more appropriate for your situation.
- You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know – At the end of the day, it is best to remember that you don’t know what you don’t know, and there can be a great deal of that in divorce cases. You also need to understand that without a lawyer, the task of advocating for your rights and interests becomes your own. DIY divorces offer little in the realm of advocacy, especially when you lack insight, resources, and the reputation that helps attorneys effectively address complex matters such as valuation of assets, forensic accounting, negotiate agreements, or assert your right to litigate any disputes in trial.
If you are not an attorney – and even if you are – you can benefit in numerous ways from working with real, qualified, and proven lawyers during your divorce. From setting your expectations and preparing for the process, to addressing your questions and concerns, utilizing resources you wouldn’t otherwise have, and harnessing the insight of advocates who have a duty to protect your rights and interests, legal representation can make all the difference in your divorce case.
By placing your trust in the hands of experienced attorneys that have insight, resources, and determination you can do more than protect your rights and interests, you can free yourself to focus on what’s most important – your children (if you have them), your family, and your new life! That’s precisely what we do at Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers, and all we’ve been doing for men, women, and families across Texas since 1998.
Contact us today to request an initial consultation.