As you’ve been thinking about divorce, you might’ve come across websites or other advertisements that promise you can do your own divorce for much less than attorney fees. Office supply stores might even have DIY divorce kits. While this may seem like an attractive option (especially after you split up your assets with your spouse), you stand to lose a lot more when you are not represented by a qualified family lawyer.
Here are five potential risks you take when you DIY your divorce:
1. Not Filing Paperwork Properly
There is a lot of paperwork required in New Jersey divorce cases. It begins with filing the petition to divorce. In this important document, you must be able to show you or your spouse have met the residency requirement and that you have grounds for divorce. A DIY kit may not be state specific, so you could file a petition that does not contain all of the important information.
Additionally, you must notify your spouse of the case a certain way to complete legal service. If you simply hand your spouse the divorce paperwork, you might not complete your responsibility. If this error is discovered, your divorce case could be delayed or even dismissed entirely.
During the divorce, you will also need to complete various documents about your finances and other matters. If you do not complete this paperwork properly or you forget to submit required documentation, you could make costly mistakes (such as stating you have more income than you do and paying more in support than you otherwise could have) or be found in contempt of court.
2. Waiving Important Rights
Without proper legal representation, you may be unaware of your rights. Your spouse might convince you to fill out forms that can have a significant impact on your case. You could make uninformed decisions because you’re only getting their side of things. For example, your wife might say that the court will give her full custody because she’s the mother and you give up without a fight.
A lawyer can explain the laws about various aspects of your divorce so you can make informed decisions after carefully weighing your options.
3. Losing Access to Your Children
No doubt the most important aspect of your divorce is your children. Unfortunately, children sometimes become just another issue to sort out in a divorce case. Like with other aspects of divorce, you may be required to submit various documents about how you plan to parent your children and share them with your soon-to-be ex. If you fail to complete paperwork on time or follow court orders, you could lose access to your children. Once this happens, it can be very difficult to regain your footing and reverse course.
4. Creating an Imbalance
Another danger of DIY divorce is that your spouse probably isn’t unrepresented, too. If that’s the case, you’re at a huge disadvantage. There your spouse is with their own expensive lawyer who:
- Has an intimate understanding of New Jersey family laws
- Knows the judge and other court professionals
- Has experience handling this type of case
- Understands civil rules of procedure and evidence
If you choose to represent yourself, you’re held to the same high standard as licensed attorneys. If you don’t follow the rules, you could be subject to the same consequences, such as facing sanctions or contempt of court findings. Additionally, you may feel overpowered because you are trying to do everything on your own, rather than having a fierce advocate on your side.
5. Not Being Able to Enforce Orders
As part of the divorce process, you may have the option at various times to allow aspects of your divorce to be modified or enforced by the court. However, if you’re not aware of these opportunities, you might walk away from your divorce with a paper that does not have much teeth to it. You may waive valuable rights without even realizing it because of the way your divorce agreement is written.
Also, if you don’t have legal representation and your spouse isn’t following the court order, you might not know what enforcement mechanisms might be available like you would if you were represented by a knowledgeable lawyer.
Contact the Law Office of Andrew R. Fischer for Help
Some people do not realize the dire consequences of trying to represent themselves in a divorce until it is too late. That’s why we’ve prepared this list to show you the potential devastating consequences you are looking at if you make the (unwise) decision to represent yourself. Instead, seek help from the well-respected family law firm of the Law Office of Andrew R. Fischer. Contact us today for a confidential consultation.