There are a number of good reasons to use a do-it-yourself divorce form. They’re affordable, they’re easy, and you and your spouse can save time and hassle. But because these forms are designed to accommodate the most least complicated of circumstances, they’re not for every divorce. How can you know if a do-it-yourself divorce form is right for you?
If your spouse has agreed to the divorce or if he/she is missing or has abandoned the relationship, a do-it-yourself divorce may work for you. The problem arises when a spouse decides to fight or “contest” the divorce and in this instance, you may want to hire an attorney to help protect your interests.
Stocks, retirement plans and other similar assets are considered to be “future income” in terms of divorce. That means that your pension or profit-sharing plan will typically be included in the marital asset pot and you’ll have to divide its value. This can get tricky since a simple buy-out doesn’t account for the future earnings and dividends that the retirement account might receive. It also doesn’t account for the tax issues that will arise as a result. If you or your spouse have considerable investments that cannot be easily divided, you may want to consult an attorney for help.
The bigger the estate, the more complex your issues can be and DIY forms don’t always have the means to address those unique concerns. Think about your marital estate and all that it includes. Who will get the family home or will you sell it and split the proceeds? How will you divide bank accounts, furniture and even debt? If you know the answers to questions like these and splitting up your estate is a no-brainer, then a DIY divorce could work for you.
Children are one of the biggest issues in a divorce and with good reason. There is physical custody to consider – will little Johnny or Sally live with Mom or Dad? – as well as visitation for the non-custodial parent and of course, child support . If you and your spouse have no kids or are in agreement as to how custody issues should be handled and that agreement is one that is fair to everyone involved, then a DIY divorce form could be for you.
While most states do allow couples to address spousal support (a.k.a. alimony or maintenance) in a prenuptial agreement, the judge will still review it to be sure that its fair. The same is true with a DIY divorce. If you and your spouse have agreed to a fair settlement or if both parties can sufficiently provide for themselves without support, then a standard form should be able to handle this issue.
Every state has laws that set out how a divorce may be obtained. In order to have your divorce granted by the court, you must meet various requirements and file the divorce following established procedures. Before deciding to do the divorce yourself, be sure you and your spouse understand the laws and requirements of your state.
Of course, every divorce is different so only you and your spouse can decide if a do-it-yourself divorce is right for you. The more the two of you can work together, the more likely it is that you can handle the divorce yourself. And of course, if you find yourself struggling along the way, there’s no reason you can’t consult an attorney.