Do It Yourself Divorce–Is Self Help For Me?

More and more peo­ple are opt­ing for the DIY approach or Self Help Divorce in order to avoid both con­flict and the huge expense of attor­neys.  However, there are some things that you need to keep in mind if you are think­ing of tak­ing that approach, even if both you and your spouse seem to agree on everything.

Do I Really Have the Time and Ability to Do Self Help Divorce Properly?

Before you make a deci­sion, take a look at your state’s court web­sites to see if they have forms and processes avail­able for you to do this and to deter­mine how com­pli­cated it will be.  In Oregon, you can look get forms at

http://​courts​.ore​gon​.gov/​O​J​D​/​O​S​C​A​/​c​p​s​d​/​c​o​u​r​t​i​m​p​r​o​v​e​m​e​n​t​/​f​a​m​i​l​y​l​a​w​/​f​a​m​i​l​y​l​a​w​f​o​r​m​s​.​p​age

Be sure that you really look the forms and instruc­tions over care­fully.  For exam­ple, Oregon’s self help forms con­tain over 20 packet options and while some are self explana­tory; oth­ers are not and include forms that sup­ple­ment other pack­ets.  You may find that many forms and instruc­tions are far from user friendly and that you will need some help to com­plete them.

Do I Really Know What All the Issues Are That Need to Be Covered in the Divorce Judgment and How to Handle Them?

Even if you use court sup­plied forms, you may not know all the issues that have to be cov­ered in the Judgment.   What impact will it have on your taxes to pay more or less child or spousal sup­port (alimony)? How do you put a value on per­sonal prop­erty or a per­sonal busi­ness?  How do you han­dle a home that is worth less than you owe on it?  How do you divide retire­ment accounts?  The last ques­tion requires you to know the dif­fer­ence between var­i­ous kinds of retire­ment accounts and, again, how their value is deter­mined.  The most com­plex retire­ment funds to deal with are Federal and State gov­ern­ment accounts and mil­i­tary retire­ment funds since they often include other ben­e­fits that should be addressed.  Often addi­tional paper­work needs to be filed with the court and/​or retire­ment plan to assure that the retire­ment account hold­ers give the money to the right person.

What Options Do I Have to Get Help With a DIY Divorce

Some courts have fam­ily court assis­tance offices to help you fill out paper­work.  See, for exam­ple, http://​courts​.ore​gon​.gov/​L​a​n​e​/​F​a​m​i​l​y​a​n​d​C​h​i​l​d​r​e​n​/​P​a​g​e​s​/​A​s​s​i​s​t​.​a​spx.  However, the staff mem­bers in these offices are lim­ited in the kind of help they can give—usually only telling you what forms you need and what you need to fill out in each They are not able to tell you what issues need to be addressed in your indi­vid­ual sit­u­a­tion or answer the kinds of ques­tions listed above.  You can also hire the ser­vices of a Paralegal.  But, again, they are not able to give advice about options and legal questions.

The best options to assure you get all the infor­ma­tion you need to com­plete the divorce prop­erly are using “lim­ited” attor­ney ser­vices and/​or the ser­vices of a mediator

More and more attor­neys are offer­ing what is referred to either as “unbun­dled ser­vices” or “lim­ited rep­re­sen­ta­tion.”  These lawyers will meet with you to review your par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tion and give you advice on what issues you need to address in your divorce and how to address them.  Usually this involves one or two meet­ings with the attor­ney.  You often have the choice of hav­ing the attor­ney pre­pare the paper­work for you, or doing it your­self, and hav­ing the attor­ney just review what you have done.

Finally, you could hire the ser­vices of a medi­a­tor.  While an attor­ney would meet with only one of the par­ties to a divorce to give advice—usually from that par­ties’ per­spec­tive, a medi­a­tor meets with both par­ties to address all the nec­es­sary issues in a way that meets both par­ties’ needs.  Again, the medi­a­tor may or may not pre­pare paper­work for fil­ing court or help you with the DIY forms.

As with any Do It Yourself Project, you want to be sure you are not tak­ing on more than you can han­dle and that you get the advice and help to do it prop­erly.  Hiring some­one to fix some­thing after it is done wrong is much more costly.
Posted in Divorce & Child Custody, Family Conflict, Separation Agreements, Uncontested Divorce Tagged with: ,

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