So you and your estranged spouse have decided that it is best for you to go your separate ways and legally get divorced. The one thing that you must sort through is the financial aspect of your soon to be ending marriage. Although the cost of hiring a divorce lawyer to represent you in an uncontested divorce is reasonable, a lot of separated couples first try to come to an agreement themselves. If you are going to try going the DIY divorce route, here is some useful information on the most important pitfalls you want to avoid as well as the perceived advantages:
Declaring Personal And Marital Assets
Anything that your spouse or you owns, individually or jointly, could be subject to partial or full forfeiture during the process of a divorce. Everything from inheritances to work performance bonuses could be seen as a joint marital asset, potentially leaving you or your estranged spouse with less money than you thought you'd walk away with.
When married couples handle their own divorce proceedings without the help of a divorce attorney, there are generally many different income sources that never come up during negotiations. Whether you are looking to pay a minimal amount of spousal support, or believe that you should be able to keep the marital home because you made all the mortgage payments, if you don't work with a divorce attorney you leave many financial considerations up to the judge or mediator's discretion.
Divorces Take a Long Time to Become Final
You might send in your divorce petition and come to a final settlement agreement, thinking that everything is perfectly fine. Unfortunately, if you don't have a divorce attorney working for you, there could be many things going on behind the scenes legally that you don't know of. Your estranged spouse could have the right to hire his or her own divorce attorney, request joint IRS tax filings, hire a private investigator and a forensic accountant, and then show up during mediation with a totally different proposed settlement agreement. You would not only be awfully surprised but totally unprepared.
When you embark on the DIY divorce process, you have to represent yourself. You would need to call the courthouse to find out if counsel was appointed to represent your estranged spouse and learn if there were any motions filed on the other party's behalf. Going through a DIY divorce is essentially making a handshake deal with your soon to be ex-wife or husband, and you won't have many legal protections. Either agree to go to mediation individually or go through a case evaluation with a trained divorce attorney before you agree to an uncontested DIY divorce.
Contact a law firm like Hazlett & Pedemonte for more information and assistance.