Choosing between traditional and technological methods of divorce is not simply about cost.
Divorce could be simultaneously one of the most emotional and detail-oriented issues a person will go through in their life. The growing embrace of the digital world for cost- and time-saving online forms for divorce proceedings demonstrate how essential work of a family law divorce lawyer are for making sure a divorce is sufficiently handled. Unlike online forms, divorce could by no means be regarded as “one size fits all.” The available online forms are cookie-cutter and too generic.
Many different kinds of people get divorced. The only marriage an online divorce proceedings may work for are those which marriage was short and that also have no retirement, no assets, no property and no kids. For these marriages, an online form may be cheaper than hiring an attorney. However, this assumes the divorcing parties are savvy enough to follow with both the Family Code and applicable court rules. If not, one risks showing up to court to complete their divorce just to be informed by the court that they need to start over at square one. Even in these situations, it is often cheaper and quicker to hire an attorney to do the job right.
A quick search of Facebook, Craiglist or even Google will reveal countless sources providing “cheap, quick and easy online divorces.” Oftentimes they go by labels such as notarios. This is to prey on the immigrant communities, who frequently do not recognize that in the United States, notarios are certainly not certified to practice law. These services may claim that you could get a divorce for as little as $250. This is common in Harris County, which is unusual, considering the processing fee for a divorce in that county is a lot more than that. Sadly for people who fall victim to these scams, it usually costs more to clean up the mess.
One of the first steps in filing for divorce is often what trips up people attempting to do it without an attorney. This is the issue of service. In a divorce, just like in any civil case, the petitioner must serve the respondent with the petition. They must supply verification to the court of this with a return citation filed with the court. Improper execution of this step will restrict the divorce from completing. Often, the respondent can’t be found or is actively hiding. In these scenarios, I’ve yet to find a non-attorney who could navigate the procedural waters alone. Here once again, both time and money could be saved by simply contracting an attorney.
Occasionally spouses agree to divorce and even consent on how to separate their assets. If a couple is in this situation and one partner suggests using an online form, this raises a great reddish flag. Is the spouse hiding possessions? Are they attempting to claim separate real estate that should be community property? In many relationships, one spouse controls the finances a lot more than the other. There may also be educational or professional advantages one party has over the other. An attorney will be in a position to map the community estate and recognize any separate property. If the arrangement is truly as fair as the spouse makes it seem, this will be quickly confirmed by consulting with an attorney. Simply separating possessions without a professional involved is a slippery slope. Often these kinds of divorces end up being reopened by the court, if the injured party is in a position to employ an attorney in enough time after the fact. Once this happens, these cases become very costly for the litigants.