Hiring an attorney can feel like an expensive endeavor. Many couples take advantage of the self-service forms available online to avoid what they see as the unnecessary expense of legal help. While this may work for some, the “check the box” forms cannot possibly fit all possible situations and may result in heartache, headache, and more expense later.
Think of it like doing major renovations on a house. As someone who is not in construction, the homeowner would not necessarily know that rewiring the electricity in a basement without consulting a professional could be disastrous. While it was the cheap and easy solution to a problem, at best it is not up to code and must be rewired by a professional, at much greater cost now that the electrician has to remove the faulting wiring and start over. Worst case scenario, the wiring starts a fire that causes significant damage to the house and may not be covered by insurance if it was discovered that it was not done by a licensed professional.
Similarly, using fill-in-the-blank or check-the-box forms for a divorce can seem economical at the time. And the forms may get the job done during the divorce when the parties are in full agreement. But when things turn sour or questions arise, it is often apparent that the initial agreement was woefully inadequate to provide guidance and instruction for what happens when parents disagree. Most form agreements do not take into consideration what happens if there is a business to divide, if there are multiple houses, or if the parties want a parenting plan different than the standard schedule. In addition, there is also usually nothing in the documents about dividing retirement assets.
While these types of quick agreements can be useful for very short-term marriages where parties have minimal to no shared assets or debts and no children, they are not as useful for most couples. Usually, one or both parties discovers that something important was inadvertently left out of the divorce agreement, causing the entire case to be reopened and possibly re-litigated. Or worse yet, parties try to file their own agreements and find that they omitted necessary documentation or language in their first drafts, causing the court to reject the agreement.
If you believe that you and your spouse are in agreement and want a “no-court” divorce, consider mediating at Wanzer Edwards with family law mediators Elisabeth Edwards or Holly Wanzer. Our family law mediators can assist you in getting it right the first time. We can help craft your unique agreement that meets the needs of your family for now, and for tomorrow.