The Dangers of Do It Yourself Divorce
You want a divorce. The internet tells you that getting a divorce is easy, and all you need to do is follow some steps and you won’t need a lawyer.
You can get the necessary forms to file for divorce online in some counties or at the law library at your local courthouse, sure. You fill them out and take them to the courthouse to be filed. Then, the clerk tells you that you have the wrong form or that you’re missing something. She tells you that she can’t tell you what the correct form looks like or what is missing, because she is not permitted to provide legal advice. She directs you to the law library where the forms came from in the first place. Now what?
Maybe you’re successful in filing the initial divorce complaint. Great! You serve a copy on your spouse, and move forward through the remaining steps. You manage to agree on how the finances will be handled, who will get what, who will pay what debt, etc., and put those terms on paper. You both sign, you file the agreement and the other documents you got from the law library or the county website with the court, and you ask for a final divorce decree. Easy, right?
But, what do you do when you get a letter from the court telling you that the decree could not be processed? It says that you failed to serve the complaint correctly, that you had the wrong form, that the agreement you submitted was not complete, that the initial divorce complaint was not properly drafted, or any number of other things that could go wrong. The letter says you have 20 days to correct the error.
So, you call a lawyer and ask them to fix your mistakes. He tells you he can help, but that he has to go back to the beginning and file a new complaint. He has to serve it properly, and then you have to wait for the state imposed waiting period to expire. Then, you need a new agreement and correct forms, and a decree can be requested. Everything that came before no longer matters, and anything is possible. Your spouse could refuse to sign the agreement, your lawyer could explain that your case is significantly more complicated that you thought, your spouse could file counterclaims or new claims that he or she hadn’t before, and now you’re spending more money and expending more time to fix mistakes or litigate a case that likely would have been less expensive and time consuming if you had hired a lawyer from the start.
Pennsylvania does not require that a party to a divorce have a lawyer, it’s true; however, there are many problems that can arise when attempting to complete the process without an attorney that can be easily avoided by hiring competent counsel. Avoiding the issues that may arise through DIY divorce will save you time, stress, and money in the long-run.
To schedule an appointment with one of our attorney’s or for further information, call us at Lamonica Law, at (610) 892-3877