Divorce is potentially one of the biggest life decisions you’ll make, and it is vital that your interests and those of your children will be protected after your marriage ends. While there are online resources that appear to offer a convenient, low-cost method of marriage dissolution without an attorney — particularly when there is general agreement between the spouses — a do-it-yourself divorce can put you on a perilous path without a full understanding of the legal ramifications of your choices.
Here’s a look at some scenarios where DIY divorces may be inadvisable:
- There are children of the marriage — All provisions of a divorce that affect children are subject to court approval, including parenting time and child support. The court will require the parties to create a parenting plan that covers where the children will live, how much time each parent will spend with them and who will be responsible for child-rearing decisions. Parenting time also bears on who pays child support and how much. No matter how amicable the relationship between the spouses, issues are likely to arise that can be difficult to resolve without counsel.
- Your property ownership is uncertain — Under Washington’s community property law, it’s not always clear who is the owner of an asset or debt for purposes of division upon divorce. Even property that is separately owned may be factored into a determination of what is a fair and equitable division. Any property settlement agreement you sign without review by an attorney can forfeit valuable rights.
- There is an abusive or injurious relationship — When either spouse feels endangered by the other, even potentially, there is a need to ward against acts of violence that can arise amid a divorce. An attorney can take appropriate legal measures, such as obtaining orders of protection for you and your children.
The often-cited advantage of a DIY divorce is that it saves money on attorneys’ fees. That is in reality a half-truth, since the problems that can arise due to the absence of legal advice may end up costing the parties even more, particularly when poor decisions lead to harsh economic consequences.
If you are contemplating a do-it-yourself divorce in Washington, you should do as much research as you can to see if it may serve your needs. However, don’t fail to seek a consultation with an experienced divorce attorney. Leslie R. Bottimore of Bottimore & Associates, P.L.L.C. in Tacoma is available to provide strong analysis and guidance for your situation. Call 253-272-5653 or contact us online.