When you consider what a divorce might cost you, do dollar signs flash before your eyes? Hiring an attorney to help you navigate this unfamiliar terrain can be extremely expensive, particularly if you and your spouse do not have an amicable divorce. Most couples consider every possible avenue, so that they can forego paying the exorbitant costs of litigation for their marital split. Therefore, many divorcees suggest getting a do-it-yourself divorce.
If you think that a DIY divorce might be the ticket to saving you money on your divorce expenses, you might want to think again. This divorce method is only ideal in very specific circumstances. You can learn a little more about what to expect from a do-it-yourself divorce, so you will be better informed before you have to make a final decision.
What Is a Do-It-Yourself Divorce?
This method is also sometimes referred to as a pro-se divorce, because you will be entirely representing yourself.
A DIY divorce is exactly what it sounds like. You will not hire an attorney to assist you with your divorce proceedings. Instead, you will file your own documents, complete all necessary paperwork on your own, and draft your own financial agreement (which both you and your spouse can agree to).
Your state government will provide all of the documents you need. However, you will need to fill them out and file them, completely on your own.
What Are the Disadvantages?
It is important to state the disadvantages of a DIY divorce before relaying the advantages, because the disadvantages far outweigh the benefits.
The first thing you will need to consider is that this method is extremely time-consuming. Most people will need to spend a great deal of time researching the paperwork they need to file, and when the appropriate time to file might actually be. Other than potentially receiving some assistance from the courthouse clerk, you will receive no help during this process.
It might be overwhelming to deal with the research in the midst of the emotional turmoil from the end of your marriage. Even in the best of circumstances, there are usually some negative feelings associated with the end of a marriage. In addition, people who feel overwhelmed by both the emotions and the paperwork might have more difficulty with developing a fair settlement.
If you are overextended, a DIY divorce may seem next to impossible. Your exhaustion could lead you to settle for less than you are entitled to, simply because you are emotionally drained. With no one to speak up on your behalf, you could be giving away a firm financial future for yourself.
What Are the Advantages of a DIY Divorce?
A do-it-yourself divorce is most frequently selected because it is less expensive than other divorce methods. Particularly when compared to litigation, a DIY divorce can save you and your spouse thousands of dollars. Adding up all of the expenses of a do-it-yourself job will usually only total a few hundred dollars, which include the cost of state-mandated fees and filing fees at the local courthouse.
The other major advantage of a DIY divorce is that you will not have to involve a large number of other parties in your emotional turmoil. Therefore, you will not have to hire attorneys, mediators, expert witnesses, or financial experts.. However, you will still be able to move forward in a way that will be beneficial to you and your spouse. In addition to saving a ton of money, you will not be emotionally drained by reliving the experience with all of these team members.
When Is a DIY Divorce the Best Option?
The reality is that a do-it-yourself divorce is not going to be the best solution for everyone. To be able to take advantage of this method, you have to have a unique lifestyle.
When you pursue a DIY divorce, you should really make sure that you do not have much to work out with your soon-to-be ex. Couples who prefer this method should have no children, no alimony, no complicated financial circumstances, and no (or few) assets.
The two of you will need to agree on all issues relating to the assets and finances you have, even if that does not mean splitting them 50/50. During a marital split, an even split down the middle does not always make the most sense. . When it comes to determining whether this method of divorce is right for both of you, amicable communication is going to be a deciding factor.
You should never pursue this type of divorce if there is abuse, manipulation, narcissism, or extreme anger involved in your relationship. These elements can create a dangerous situation, and they can lead to you being bullied out of the things you are entitled to. Therefore, always look for professional help in situations that could pose a risk to your own safety.
4 Costly Reasons Not to Choose a DIY Divorce
Remember, there are far more reasons not to choose a do-it-yourself divorce than there are to select it as your preferred method. You can make many mistakes that will ultimately end up costing you in the months and years ahead. If you are still on the fence about how to pursue your own split, you might want to take a look at a few of these extremely costly errors, which can occur as a result of attempting to handle it yourself.
1) You May Miss Hidden Assets.
Specialized experts can point out areas of your income statements and bank statements that simply do not add up or make sense. They have a trained, experienced eye for spotting errors and missing details, which you will probably not be able to identify on your own. Without their assistance, you might be allowing your spouse to keep some of his or her hidden assets, without including them in a divorce settlement.
Your spouse could be hiding assets in retirement accounts, checking accounts, savings accounts, or even tangible assets (such as homes, cars, or paintings). Their hidden stash could represent a significant portion of your marital income and finances. When you miss out on identifying them, your spouse will walk away with far more than their fair share of the marital resources.
2) You Might Not Understand the Tax Implications.
Understanding your taxes is difficult for most people, even in normal circumstances. If you were not the spouse who handled the finances or the investments, you might not truly understand the full tax implications of splitting retirement accounts and other assets. This situation could be problematic well into the future, when you attempt to tap into those resources.
When it comes to tax implications, a small misunderstanding could cost you thousands of dollars now—and even more in the years ahead. For example, when you attempt to pull money out when you retire, you might have to pay more taxes on a particular savings account. Even though you and your spouse may have equally split the retirement accounts at face value, one might have considerable value over the other when you look a little deeper.
3) You Do Not Fully Understand Child Support.
Child support is often based on calculations provided by set state guidelines, but entitlement to child-support payments might not be as clear-cut as you imagine. These funds are only designed to cover the basic necessities for a child, but other needs are certain to arise in the months ahead. You and your spouse will have to identify a clear way to split these expenses, so that you can create a detailed outline for the divorce settlement.
You might need to discuss some oft-forgotten items, such as orthodontics and health insurance. Who is going to be responsible for dividing up the percentages of these items? You may choose to evenly split additional expenses, or you might leave it up to the sole discretion of one parent who is the primary breadwinner of the family. The circumstances surrounding these small details will be completely unique to each family.
When it comes to crafting a settlement agreement in a DIY divorce, visitation and parenting also tend to be forgotten. Because the parents who choose this style tend to have great communication skills, they might not opt for outlining a specific visitation schedule or other individual responsibilities to the children.
However, you need to prioritize your plan for protecting your relationship with your children in the future. Should animosity ever develop in these situations, it can be detrimental to the child’s relationship with both parents, which could lead to confusing circumstances for the child.
Here is the bottom line: If children are involved, it is never recommended to pursue a do-it-yourself divorce.
4) You Did Not Sufficiently Plan for Your Living Expenses.
Following a divorce, your finances will obviously make a shift. You will move from one household to two, even if only one of you is making an income. When you factor in the prices of two rent payments, two phone bills, groceries, and utilities, this situation represents a significant cost. .
In a do-it-yourself divorce, no one is available to guide you through the process of making two new budgets, planning for alimony and child-support payments, and generating two incomes to cover these budgets. A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst can typically help you develop more thoughts at this stage, but you might not have one during a DIY divorce. While taking care of your individual finances before the divorce is officially finalized, you must be personally proactive..
Start planning now for long-term things, such as your retirement savings account, your health and life insurance, and other items that might have been taken care of through a spouse’s employment. To find real freedom here, you will need to take the first steps toward your own financial independence.
Choose Your Method of Divorce Wisely.
Many people are lured to attempt a do-it-yourself divorce, because it promises a simple, quick, and inexpensive means to end their current marriage.
While it might be beneficial to some couples who have few assets and no children, this style of divorce is not going to be right for everyone. You will have to consider whether you and your spouse are both up for the monumental task of orchestrating your own legal split, as well as whether or not you can afford to make any of these costly errors.
If you have any doubts about completing your own divorce, you might want to pursue a different method. Mediation can still offer a less expensive alternative to litigation, but you will both gain the experienced eye of a professional, which will help you make a fair divorce settlement.
Finally, before you make a final decision about proceeding with a DIY divorce, research all of your options .