When do you need to hire a family law attorney and when can you save a little money by just using an online divorce forms website? This article will provide some advice to help you decide whether to do it yourself or hire a divorce attorney.
What does it mean to use an online divorce form site?
Essentially, using an online forms website in a divorce case means that you will be representing yourself and acting as your own attorney. All online divorce form sites have a disclaimer that clearly states that they are not your attorney and are only preparing documents on your behalf. While it is your constitutional right to act as your own attorney, there are some significant risks involved that you should assess before you take the online route.
Also, you have to evaluate the specific website you are dealing with. Most are state sites that offer forms that they claim can be used in any state. However, each state has different laws. In other words, California divorce laws are not the same as Texas divorce laws because the two states have different laws. So with an online divorce, you basically get a generic form that may or may not be valid in your jurisdiction.
What if you have kids?
While many divorce form sites claim to provide forms that address the necessary provisions regarding children (custody, custody, visitation, etc.), it is very dangerous to use these generic forms when you have children. You have to remember that your divorce form is prepared using online software that simply fills in the blanks with your responses to very simple yes/no or multiple choice questions. These answers may not apply to your situation, or you may not fully understand the question.
This is where a competent lawyer can make all the difference. A lawyer will learn more about your situation and figure out exactly what your documents need to say, not just the boilerplate language that divorce website software spits out. If you have children, you should take the safe route and hire an experienced divorce attorney.
What if you own property?
Many divorce form websites also claim to offer forms that can handle the most complex divisions of property. However, relying solely on generic divorce forms when dividing any property other than personal items (clothes, furniture, etc.) is risky. If you or your spouse own real estate, a vehicle, a 401k or other retirement account, or have any other financial assets or liabilities, online divorce forms do not necessarily protect your interests.
A competent divorce attorney will be able to first analyze your situation and determine what division of property is in your best interests, and second, ensure that all assets vested in you are properly transferred and titles are properly recorded on your behalf.
There are always certain risks associated with using online divorce forms. If there are no children in the marriage and no property to divide, saving a few hundred dollars may be worth the risk and the extra work you have to do. But for most people, especially those with children or property, hiring an experienced divorce attorney to handle their case is essential.
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