Divorces can be intense and sometimes expensive. At times, divorce can feel like a blood sport between you and your spouse where the only winners are your lawyers.
It is understandable why some divorce cases involve one party appearing before the divorce court in pro per (representing themselves). It’s tempting to approach divorce with a do-it-yourself (DIY) attitude with the goal of saving a lot of money.
Even in uncontested divorces, where the spouses are amicably parting ways, an untrained eye could miss a major legal issue that would significantly impact the entire dynamic of the divorce. Below are the major issues with “DIY divorces.”
Underestimating Your Estate
Missouri courts provide a lot of information for divorce litigants who represent themselves. In some cases, a party simply has no income with not enough assets at stake to justify hiring an attorney. Such divorces can move relatively fast with very little at stake.
However, even people with modest estates and fairly decent incomes can end up in a complicated divorce.
Although you might come to a friendly agreement with your former spouse over the disposition of property, there are usually complex tax issues involved. A simple property transfer can result in a major tax liability, if done without advice from a lawyer. There are also tax implications regarding spousal maintenance and child support. The person paying support can deduct spousal maintenance (also known as alimony) payments from their taxes. The person receiving support still includes alimony payments as part of their taxable income. This fact can significantly change how assets and debt are divided between spouses.
Underestimating Court Procedure
Although some DIY divorce websites purport to accurately complete court forms for you, they might not adequately give you the correct procedure for filing, serving, and responding to certain documents. Missouri’s rules for filing deadlines and service of process are not intuitively simple. Failure to comply with certain procedural requirements could invalidate a filing, or warrant sanctions.
Underestimating the Value of Budgeting
While DIY divorce websites handle the paperwork, they may not give you advice on post-divorce matters. Divorce substantially alters a person’s financial landscape. For example, if you no longer own a home after the divorce, you might not enjoy the tax deduction associated with homeownership. If you were relying on your spouse for health insurance, you will have to find a suitable plan for yourself. Like other couples, you might not be thinking about how each decision can financially impact your life two, five, or ten years down the road.
Seek Professional Advice from an Experienced Divorce Lawyer
As you can see, handling your own divorce can have unexpected consequences. That is why it is important for you to consult with competent legal counsel to properly secure your interests. Our St. Charles divorce lawyers at the Smith Law Offices, LLC have over 30 years of collective experience in divorce cases, ranging from collaborative divorces to high net worth divorce.
Contact the Smith Law Office, LLC online, or call us at (636) 400-1177 to have your case evaluated today.