Technically, DIY divorce is legal, but if the process was so simple, divorce attorneys would no longer be in business. Even if you and your spouse are facing an amicable and uncontested divorce, there are many aspects that call for qualified and experienced legal guidance if you want the best outcome.
If you are thinking about going the DIY route with your divorce, here are 4 reasons why it is a bad idea.
1. You Could Get Less Community Property Than You Are Entitled To
Once you and your spouse agree on how community property will be divided and sign a settlement agreement, it cannot be revoked or modified. Unless you have a solid understanding of what constitutes separate vs. community property, it’s easy to find yourself with less of the marital estate that you are entitled to. On the surface, community and separate property should be easy to distinguish: community property consists of assets accumulated during the marriage while separate property consists of assets you owned while single or received as a separate gift or inheritance.
What you may not know is that there are cases where separate property becomes part of the community. For example, if your spouse receives a summer home as a gift from his parents and marital funds are used to renovate or otherwise increase its value, you are entitled to a share in the value of those improvements. An attorney can explain this to you and help you identify property that qualifies.
2. Your Children May Need More Support Than the Guidelines Present
In Texas, statutory guidelines dictate how much child support is payable. With one child, the noncustodial parent pays 20% of their net income, while the amount due increases to 25% for two children, and so forth. While this formula may appear relatively straightforward, a divorce attorney can ensure that the amount of support requested is sufficient. If any of your children have needs that the guideline support amounts can’t meet (e.g. they have a disability and require medication and/or tutoring), your attorney can come up with a figure that covers these added costs.
3. You Could Overlook Retirement Accounts
Many divorcing spouses are surprised to learn that retirement accounts such as pensions, IRAs, or even 401(k)s can be divided in a Texas divorce, even if only one person paid into them and they are not payable for many years. Courts divide these accounts after considering their value, the percentage of that value that belongs to the community, and the percentage of this community property that each spouse is entitled to. An attorney will help you obtain your fair and just share of your spouse’s retirement benefits.
4. The Money You Save May Not Outweigh the Hassle
DIY divorce packages are advertised as a quick and affordable way to end your marriage, but they don’t help you make more complicated legal decisions. At worst, you will make a mistake that affects the validity of your divorce. At best, you’ll spend hours trying to decipher the forms you need to file and figure out how to correctly complete them. Working with a knowledgeable divorce attorney will spare you all this stress and hassle.
5. You May Still Have to Go to Court
If you file the incorrect forms, accidentally omit necessary information, or have complicated issues with your divorce, the family court judge may require you to come to court and review your paperwork before proceeding. Furthermore, if you and your spouse cannot agree on a key matter (for example, you want spousal support and he doesn’t think you need it), those issues will have to be litigated, and no DIY package is set up for that.
Even simple divorces can be complicated for those who lack legal training. If the marital estate includes high-value assets or significant debt, how can it be fairly divided? You may want spousal support, but are you entitled to it, given the duration and circumstances of your marriage?
Working with a Texas divorce attorney will cost more than a DIY divorce, but it doesn’t have to be expensive, especially when you and your spouse don’t have children and haven’t built up a significant marital estate. To schedule an appointment with Crista Marichalar Branch, contact us online or call 210-761-6390.