Do-It-Yourself (DIY) divorce kits are not for everyone. The kits are growing in popularity, partly because they cost substantially less than hiring a divorce attorney. However, when you hire a divorce lawyer, you pay for their extensive legal knowledge and experience. Take time to weigh your personal circumstances before you decide upon DIY divorce as your best option.
Do-It-Yourself Divorce Lacks Benefits of a Divorce Lawyer
Many states limit the use of DIY divorce kits. Others require you to satisfy certain criteria. Couples who reach agreement on everything may still not be allowed to file a DIY divorce. Those who do use DIY kits often regret their choice later. Issues arise that create a less than amicable situation and the parties end up in court with a divorce lawyers. As a result, they spend more money in the long run.
We strongly advise couples who fall into one of the following categories to hire a divorce lawyer. Some jurisdictions require it. If you have:
- minor children
- joint ownership of real estate
- one or both parties holding an interest in a family business
- a home-based business
- assets and debts requiring valuation and distribution
- a marriage of long duration during which the wife never worked outside the home.
Some divorcing couples who fall under one or more of the above categories may still file for divorce without a lawyer. However, in a case where one spouse agrees to certain conditions just to hurry things along, they may later regret that choice. Written agreements do not prevent the parties from later hiring divorce lawyers to renegotiate their original agreement.
Whether you hire a lawyer or take the DIY approach, there is a plethora of documents required. This invites the question of how necessary or not document prep for divorce is.
Is Document Prep for Divorce Worth It?
Document prep can be very helpful, and in some cases, it is required. For example, in the state of Illinois, you can obtain a divorce quite easily. You only need to have established residency in the state for 90 days. In addition, the court will agree and grant a divorce in Illinois even if you have obtained paperwork online.
The state of Illinois offers do-it-yourself divorce kits that start at $29.95 and don’t require an extended wait for a final decree. The kits are user-friendly and don’t require the petitioner to pay for an expensive lawyer.
If you and your spouse have reached an agreement about all aspects of the divorce and the terms of the agreement, you can be divorced in Illinois in as short a period as 30 days.
Since Illinois is recognized as an equitable distribution state, it is essential for you and your spouse to come to a decision regarding division of property prior to filing for divorce using the Illinois divorce kit. This means the court has no say regarding division of property, alimony, or child custody when you agree on these issues. If you are unable to reach an agreement, the court will not grant divorce using the divorce kit until you do.
The following property is exempt from distribution:
- Property that was gifted to you
- Property you acquired after being legally separated
- Property that has been excluded due to spousal agreement
- Any property that was obtained before the conception of the marriage
Illinois doesn’t recognize misconduct as a reason to increase or decrease the percentage of property distribution. In addition, the spousal agreement for distribution of assets is mandatory to use the do-it-yourself divorce kit.
What Is the Difference Between Document Preparation for Divorce and a DIY Divorce Kit?
Whether you hire an attorney or file for divorce using your state’s do-it-yourself divorce kit, there is still a plethora of documents that are necessary. The following documents are required before filing for divorce:
- Valid ID (driver’s license, state-issued ID, or passport)
- Proof of residency in the state where you are filing
- Copy of your marriage certificate
- Prenuptial or postnuptial agreement if applicable
- Birth certificates for each child, agreements concerning childcare, or copy of existing custody agreement
- Record of earnings
- Financial statements
- Contracts for employment if applicable
- Tax returns (federal and state)
- Statement of net worth
- Any record of savings accounts
- Bank and investment statements
- Appraisals of property
- Grant deeds
- Statements from tax assessors
- Statements regarding the mortgage
- Any documents regarding refinance
- Any documents pertaining to vacation or rental property
- Life insurance policies
- Statements regarding pension or retirement
- Policies on cars
- Car registration
- Ownership for jewelry, art, or other property of value
- Household inventory
- Credit cards
- Medical bills
- Copies of operating agreements for any partnerships or businesses
- Tax returns for business or corporate entities if applicable
- Certificates of trust
- Power of attorney
- Any directives for health care
While the above list is extensive, it is required whether using an attorney or filing a do-it-yourself divorce. The do-it-yourself divorce kit includes the paperwork and instructions for filing for divorce without an attorney. It will tell you just what documents you need to file with the paperwork. Most states offer the kits online.
Do Online Divorce Papers Really Work?
Online and DIY divorce kits only work if:
- The parties agree on issues regarding the divorce.
- They own very few assets.
- There are no disputes regarding childcare, child custody, or childcare.
- Your divorce doesn’t involve alimony.
There is no marital property requiring distribution.
5 Problems with DIY Divorce Kits
DIY divorce may sound like a good idea when considering the cost of hiring a divorce lawyer, but is it really a good idea? The problem is many people filing for divorce on their own have no idea what their rights are and what their entitlements are. This is why it is not a good idea for anyone who has assets such as a home or other joint monetary assets to file a DIY divorce. This is important even if you think you have a solid agreement.
Some of the disadvantages of a DIY divorce kit include:
- There is no attorney available to help you complete the paperwork, so it is advantageous for you.
- Your completed paperwork will not be reviewed by an attorney.
- Learning materials and help documentation are dense and difficult to understand.
- There is a risk you will agree to something you will regret later.
- You may find you spend more money in the end than you would have by hiring a lawyer.
Divorce Lawyers Know the Law
Very few people know enough about family law to file DIY divorce with confidence. At first glance, DIY kits seem easy and save the cost of a lawyer. However, minor children, property and other assets could complicate your case. Many factors determine the valuation of property, amount child support, custody, and visitation.
For example, a husband just wants a fast, clean break. He agrees to child support payments substantially higher than the court would award. He later discovers the payments are too high and he’s having trouble making ends meet. As a result, he may hire a family lawyer to arrange child support modification. The liberal visitation schedule to which the couple originally agreed may also need revisions later due to schedule conflicts or other issues.
Disadvantages of DIY Divorce Kits
The major disadvantage in a DIY divorce concerns the process of valuation and distribution of marital assets. Complications arise when couples married many years divorce having considerable investments in real estate, retirement funds, 401K Plans, CDs, savings, etc. Their investments may involve a high amount of debt. In these cases, both parties benefit from hiring a divorce lawyer. In this way, they ensure proper valuation and equitable distribution.
Hiring a divorce lawyer does not negate the possibility of later revisions. It may, however, lower the potential. In summary, DIY divorce kits are best used by couples with no property, no children, and minimal marital assets.
Legal Yogi Can Help
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