Think you can Google your way to a DIY divorce? Think twice

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The Internet is bursting with information, and you’ll find plenty of how-to articles and videos on just about any topic—including divorce. Some people even turn to online divorce websites because they don’t want to pay thousands of dollars for a divorce attorney. What they don’t realize—and some of our clients have found out—is that going the DIY divorce route could be a costly mistake.

For the most part, the only people who should consider getting an online DIY divorce are those who literally have no assets and no children. If you don’t fall into that category, say you own a house and have kids, or retirement plans and other assets are in play, you could set yourself up for a catastrophic outcome that you can’t correct.

Once you sign and file the divorce decree, what’s done is done

At our Fort Worth law firm, we receive inquiries from prospective clients every week that say, “I got divorced but I didn’t know ‘X’ at the time, so now I need help fixing that.” The problem is that if both spouses signed and filed the divorce decree, there’s usually nothing that can be done to “fix it.”

We often see instances where couples didn’t properly inventory their assets and end up with an inequitable split of community property in Texas. For example, many people make this mistake with retirement accounts—he keeps his account and she keeps hers. Then a few years later the wife finds out the ex-husband’s retirement assets were worth triple what hers were. Unfortunately, she’s out thousands of dollars she can’t get back.

Another issue that regularly comes up with DIY divorces is that couples neglect to file important ancillary paperwork because they didn’t know it was required. The divorce decree only states what goes where. It doesn’t set up a wage holding order, and it doesn’t close assets and transfer them over.

Here’s the kicker. If you don’t file the required ancillary documents to transfer assets properly, you won’t be able to go back later to get them because the court no longer has jurisdiction over that property.

A DIY divorce with children also isn’t a good idea

A DIY divorce is almost always problematic when children are involved because you rarely see custody cases where issues don’t come up in the future. You must also use enforceable language in the decree that spells out the who, what, where, why, when and how, and experienced family law attorneys know this. The average person does not—no matter how much Googling they do.

If you don’t know what type of language is enforceable, you could be putting your wishes for child custody, visitation and support in jeopardy.

Ancillary documents are also required when child custody and support are involved in Texas because the divorce decree doesn’t automatically set up a child support account, a record of support and other directives.

A divorce attorney can also help ensure your future ex doesn’t take advantage of you

Trusting a future ex instead of a divorce attorney to follow through on divorce paperwork can also be very costly. This happened to a client of the Sisemore Law Firm.

He and his wife decided to do a DIY online divorce 20 years ago. The wife told him she walked the papers into the court but never actually did. Last year she filed for divorce and tried to go after the retirement assets he’d accumulated over the past 20 years. We were able to save a large portion of his retirement but that outcome was very unusual.

Should you DIY or get advice from a divorce attorney with 3,000+ cases under his belt?

While hiring a divorce lawyer to handle your divorce and child custody case will likely cost you thousands of dollars (the average cost for attorney’s fees in a Texas divorce is $12,400—more if kids are involved), mishandling your own case could cost you much more. That’s why we encourage people who have any assets (home, retirement accounts, business, etc.) or children to hire an experienced family law attorney and skip the DIY divorce route.

If you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, our experienced family law attorneys are here to help. For a reasonable fee, our founder Justin Sisemore, who has handled over 3,000 divorce cases during his career, can provide a thorough case review.

To schedule a confidential divorce consultation with Justin, contact our Tarrant County law firm at (817) 336-4444 or visit our contact page to schedule online.

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