Hiring a lawyer to handle your divorce can be a very expensive proposition. Many people choose to represent themselves instead of paying an attorney. This is commonly called “do-it-yourself” divorce or simply DIY divorce. While this may save money in the short run, it may be very expensive in the long run.
I compare getting divorced without an attorney to purchasing home owner’s insurance. People hate paying the premiums and if a claim isn’t filed, they feel like they wasted the money. However, if a casualty occurs, people are extremely happy that they have insurance. The same thing happens with lawyers. If a problem occurs, people are happy that they have a lawyer. Once a problem occurs, if you don’t have a lawyer, you may be stuck with something that can’t be changed. Judges hold people who do divorces without attorneys to the same standards as experienced lawyers. They don’t tell people that they can do things better. They don’t tell people when they make mistakes.
Some people think that they can get divorced by themselves because they can purchase forms from the internet. These internet forms can be particularly dangerous for people. These packages claim to provide all the required documents that a couple needs to complete and file a divorce in Massachusetts on their own. These forms may appear to be tailored for Massachusetts but the basic form may be designed for all states or be modified from a form for a different state. As a result, there may be provisions that don’t work well or at all in Massachusetts. These forms tend to be one size fits all. Every marriage is different from others and every divorce is different from all others. The forms don’t have the ability to address the unique problems of every divorce and they don’t explain how the law applies to each party and the children. Lawyers don’t just draft documents, they help clients understand how the agreement and the law applies to their unique situation.
People who do their own divorces and draft their own divorce agreements often have problems for many different reasons including:
- They don’t understand the legal jargon
- They make mistakes filing out forms
- They miss filing dates
- They agree to court orders without understanding their legal and financial consequences
- They don’t understand the tax consequences and don’t consider taxes when making decisions
- They are unable to respond to legal issues that arise unexpectedly
- They think that judges will protect them. In some instances judges will manipulate people without lawyers to agree to terms that the judge has no power to order without an agreement.
- They agree to things that cannot be reversed or modified.
- They don’t know the rules of court. The rules of evidence can be particularly problematic. Frequently people go to court thinking that they can prove something at court only to find out that they can’t present any evidence at all because they don’t understand the rules of evidence.
Some people have filed their own forms and thought that they were divorced when they were not. They then married another person and committed the crime of bigamy.
It is cheaper to do the divorce correctly the first time. Hiring an experienced divorce lawyer may save money when you consider that some of the decisions made in a divorce will last the rest of the person’s life.