Divorce is painful, time consuming, and it can be very expensive. However, if you are seeking a divorce that will be uncontested, and it will be fairly simple because there won’t be many assets to divvy up, it is possible that you can save a significant amount of money by filing yourself. A word of caution, though, because there are situations where a do-it-yourself divorce wouldn’t make sense, and, in fact, would be detrimental.
Are You a Good Candidate?
If your family’s assets and debts are straightforward, and you have all of the necessary related documentation at your disposal, then you may be a good candidate. Most importantly, though, it is critical that you and your spouse are in full agreement on all matters, including child custody and support, alimony (if applicable), and division of property. If there is animosity between you, or if you don’t have the time or patience to follow through, then it’s best to seek professional legal counsel.
People You Should Consult
Keep in mind that just because you feel that a do-it-yourself divorce is a good fit for your situation, that doesn’t mean that you will go it entirely alone. There are still several people you should consult along the way to ensure that you aren’t making any missteps. For example, your first stop should be to the county clerk’s office in your state. It’s a good place to start because, while the clerks are prohibited from giving legal advice, they can provide detailed answers to your questions about paperwork and the court procedure.
If you need help preparing and filing the paperwork, it pays to contact a paralegal, or legal document preparer. They cannot give legal advice, but they can assist you in completing the forms and filing them with the court system. The cost will vary depending on your location, as well as other factors, including whether or not there will be a settlement, alimony paid, or if you have children. However, the cost of hiring a paralegal will pale in comparison to that of a lawyer. A paralegal will typically charge under $1000 to prepare and file your divorce documents.
An alternative to using a paralegal is the phenomenon of web-based services. It can be less expensive and a bit more convenient. However, online services are typically geared toward very simple divorces. Before signing on with a web-based service, make sure they are rated by the Better Business Bureau, and peruse online reviews.
Taxes are another consideration when divorcing. Depending on issues like the status of assets, as well as the age and number of dependents, divorce can carry with it some long term tax burdens. So it’s important that you educate yourself. Consider consulting a tax preparer, forensic accountant, or financial advisor who specializes in family or divorce issues. You may be charged for a consultation, so be prepared with information and documents they will need, as well as a complete list of questions you want answered. Seeking tax and asset advice is well worth the time and nominal fee to ensure that you avoid tax penalties.
The divorce process can be very costly, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re a good candidate for a do-it-yourself divorce, and you seek the right support from highly qualified professionals, you can save a lot of money, stress and time.