In a well-meaning attempt to avoid the expenses of a traditional divorce, many couples try to negotiate a pro se divorce, better known as a do-it-yourself divorce. While this is an effective strategy for some couples, the do-it-yourself approach is by no means one-size-fits-all. Before you print the forms to fill out, consider the pros and cons of a do-it-yourself divorce.
PRO: Cost Savings
There’s no such thing as a free lunch, as the saying goes, and there’s no such thing as a free divorce, either. However, in bypassing the often-exorbitant legal fees of your respective attorneys and associated court costs, you can reduce the cost to mere filing fees. Considering that divorce often represents a financial setback for both parties, reducing the expenses involved in the divorce itself can prove advantageous.
PRO: Keeps Things Amicable
Divorce court hearings can bring out the worst in people, and if you and your spouse see no need for such acrimony, then try to sit down and draft your agreement yourselves with minimal judicial involvement. If you have children together, maintaining an amicable and collaborative process will set a positive tone going forward for co-parenting.
CON: One Side Could Take Advantage
Negotiating a do-it-yourself divorce could present problems. If one spouse has more access to key information than the other regarding assets and liabilities, that person could use that inequality to draft an agreement that is similarly imbalanced. Navigating a divorce without legal expertise by your side could cause you to fall victim to the “unknown unknowns” of the process—the risks you hadn’t even identified beforehand.
CON: You May Have To Start All Over
We’ve heard plenty of horror stories about DIY projects around the house that don’t go as planned, forcing the “project managers” to start fresh with the professionals involved. Failing to include information necessary to a divorce settlement agreement could lead to a judge declaring the document invalid.
If weighing the pros and cons of a do-it-yourself divorce leads you to say “no” to going it alone, remember that you do have options that lie between doing it yourself and seeking traditional litigation. Alternative dispute resolutions such as arbitration, mediation, and collaborative divorce exist to give divorcing couples fair and equitable separations. These strategies offer professional expertise without the stress, rancor, and expenses of going to court. Instead of a DIY divorce, one of these options may be best for you.