Most divorce lawyers will tell you that getting a divorce without a lawyer is a terrible idea. Now, coming from people who make their living helping people get divorced, that advice might sound self-serving—but it’s often right. Sometimes, the money you save on legal fees isn’t saved at all, because you end up paying more or getting less in support, or you get a property settlement that turns out to be unfavorable.
So, yes: getting divorced without a lawyer can be a bad idea. But it doesn’t have to be. In the right circumstances and with the proper preparation, do-it-yourself divorce can be quick and efficient, and let you move on with your life with less expense and stress.
Note the words “in the right circumstances” and “with the proper preparation” in the paragraph above. Some situations really do call for an attorney’s help. And if you choose not to have an attorney do the heavy lifting in your divorce case, you must be prepared to do some legal research and protect your own interests. Otherwise, you may end up paying a lawyer more to try to fix a bad situation that could have been avoided had you had the right legal help from the start.
If you think you might be interested in divorce without a lawyer, read on for some DIY divorce tips.
No matter how much time or money do-it-yourself divorce might seem to save, it’s not worth it in certain situations. Here are some situations in which divorcing without a lawyer might make sense. The more of these factors you have on your side, the more likely it is that you will be able to divorce without a lawyer’s help:
On the other hand, there are some red flags that suggest that do-it-yourself divorce papers are a bad idea, and you would benefit from an attorney’s help:
What if, like many couples, you fall somewhere in the middle? You might be on pretty good terms, and generally agree about most of the terms of your divorce, but haven’t nailed down the details. You also have kids and you both want them to live primarily with you, and your spouse knows more about the family finances than you do.
It doesn’t mean that you can’t file divorce papers yourself, but it does mean that you will need to do more work and research to make sure your interests are protected.
If, after considering the above, you still think do-it-yourself divorce is the best option, you need to prepare. It’s great if you feel that your spouse is honest, but as the old Russian proverb says, “Trust, but verify.”
Once you are confident you have a handle on what needs to be addressed in your divorce, go to your county court’s website and review the process for filing a divorce on your own—but don’t be afraid to seek further help if you need to, and avoid making these DIY divorce mistakes.
Do you really need a lawyer for a divorce? The truth is, it depends. But something a lot of lawyers won’t tell you is that legal help with a divorce doesn’t need to be all-or-nothing. For example, if you and your spouse mostly agree but need a little help finalizing your agreement, mediation can help you get there. If you’ve reached an agreement, but want to be sure it protects your interests, you can hire an attorney just to review your divorce settlement agreement. You can work with an attorney just to draft your agreement so that it complies with legal requirements, or to appear with you in court. It’s really based on your needs, and there are lots of options for getting help with a do-it-yourself divorce.