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Why a do-it-yourself divorce may not be in your best interest

by Houston Divorce Attorney Sam M. “Trey” Yates, III

If you are considering divorce, you may be thinking about trying a do-it-yourself approach using a website, book and or court provided documents. Maybe you are hoping to save money, time or heartache by simply getting it done. These are good intentions, but as the saying goes…”The road to failure is paved with good intentions.”

Here are some reasons why we believe hiring an experienced, board certified family law attorney for your divorce is a better choice for most couples.

Avoid mistakes

Divorce is technically a lawsuit. And the legal system is complicated. In Texas, for example, divorce law can be found in the Texas Family Code, The Texas Constitution, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, Texas Rules of Evidence, Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code, Penal Code and/or Texas Business Organizations Code. You don’t know what you don’t know. As an average couple, no matter how educated and experienced you may be in other professions, it’s likely you don’t know enough about divorce law and divorce finances to effectively represent yourself. If you or your spouse simply omit a credit card debt, or underestimate or overestimate the value of a major asset, you can cause significant financial harm to yourself or your family for many years to come. In addition, such mistakes can require costly future legal proceedings to correct.

Reduce stress

Divorce is an extremely stressful time for every couple and family. The typical volume of paperwork generated by one divorce case is usually daunting in itself. Working with a seasoned legal team who does the heavy lifting can alleviate a great deal of anxiety. You will still be responsible for providing your team with documents and information, and for staying involved in your case along the way. Yet, having a good legal team on your side making certain all the information is gathered and accounted for, your rights are represented and all appropriate documentation is completed and filed in a timely manner can take a huge load off your mind. You have enough on your plate without the added stress of trying learn divorce law in the middle of your own divorce.

Receive what you deserve

Each divorce situation is unique. Having a certified, seasoned family law attorney on your side with with demonstrated experience with divorce, both inside and out of the courtroom, is priceless. You may believe you know how a settlement division is likely to turn out, but you also could be factually incorrect based on any number of factors. For example, did you know that the judge who has been assigned your divorce case could impact its outcome. Your divorce lawyer should have some insights to offer on this aspect of your case.

Complete the right documents accurately

Inexperience in creating legal divorce documents may result in errors, or unclear language that confuses the court, or leads it toward an outcome you did not intend. This may result in a divorce decree that makes it difficult or impossible for the court to enforce. You or your spouse may also miss one or more very important documents. For example, if you and your spouse are dividing retirement accounts, this can get complicated and costly. If dividing a 401(k) or pension account, you will need a document called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, or QDRO. This legal document, along with your settlement agreement, should protect you and not trigger unnecessary taxes or penalties.

Avoid delays

With a trusted divorce attorney’s assistance, you generally stand a better chance of moving through the divorce process at a steady pace. These experts know which forms to complete, and what information and documentation the court requires to do its job. Do-it-yourselfers can find themselves recreating the wheel, redoing forms and correcting missteps along the way that result in delaying the court’s ruling, and possibly delaying the date the divorce is finalized.

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