You should be aware that the divorce companies that offer to help for a cheap fee are not generally attorneys, but paralegals or, in some cases, even less experienced individuals. Since they're not attorneys, they cannot give you legal advice. They only fill out the forms for you; the same forms you can fill out yourself. If you have a question, or an issue comes up, you have to contact an attorney. They also cannot appear in court with you. Here's just one example, where someone did their divorce on their own, without proper legal advice. A woman sought a divorce after over 20 years of marriage. She and her spouse were friendly, and she decided to use a divorce company. Her husband owned a very profitable company, but he convinced her that she didn't need alimony, since he "would always take care of her". So, even though a very basic property settlement agreement was signed, the wife had agreed to no alimony, even in the future if her circumstances changed. Unfortunately for her, about two years after the divorce, she developed a disabling disease and could no longer work. Her ex had moved on to another woman and refused to help her. Her only source of income now is social security. If she had had proper representation, she would be living very comfortably. Here's just a sample of issues that frequently arise, with which they cannot help you and, unless you're familiar with the law, you'll need to contact an attorney to answer or assist you:
- Best type of divorce and/or grounds to file under
- What if my spouse won't agree to a divorce, or has moved out of state?
- Should I get an Annulment instead of a divorce?
- What type of custody should I seek?
- Am I entitled to alimony, how much, for how long?
- Am I entitled to child support, how much?
- Am I entitled to part of my spouses pension, IRA, home, stocks, etc...?
- What about daycare expenses, medical insurance, medical expenses, life insurance, college expenses?
- Can I use my maiden name?
- Can my spouse take the kids out of state?
- Can my spouse bring his new girlfriend/boyfriend around the kids?
- Hundreds of other issues that can arise
Unlike, what you may think, this doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune on attorneys fees. If you and your spouse are reasonable and can agree on most things, the fees can be greatly reduced and handled so that you don't have any surprises in the future. I always tell people that it will cost them more to fight each other on most issues than it would be worth, so I always try to keep the costs down by putting together a reasonable solution to all the issues. If the parties agree to the issues and an uncontested divorce is filed, it may not even be necessary for both spouses to appear in court, and the fees can be less than a thousand dollars, plus court costs.
Even if you think you can handle a divorce on your own, I recommend you at least have a consultation with an attorney to know what your rights are with regard to each issue.
All the Best!
RANDY C. REDDEN