Legal Nuggets- DIY Divorce
Why not save money and prepare your own divorce paperwork using the free forms or forms for sale on various internet sites?
While that might work-out okay for you in some situations, it could cause you many problems in others. Here are some problems you might encounter:
- If the papers are not filed with the proper court and served in the correct way, you could find out that you have wasted a lot of time and the costs you spent on filing and serving the papers. For example, if you are able to get a court to issue a written grant of a divorce (also called a decree of divorce) your spouse could attack it at a later date by arguing that the court which you used did not have jurisdiction. Jurisdiction can be hard to determine. Cases in which jurisdiction is the main point of contention have been appealed all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. Obviously even very smart, experienced lawyers and judges have disagreed over whether a particular court has jurisdiction in a particular case. In divorce cases, jurisdiction can be tricky to figure out when one or both of the parties have changed their state of residence since they separated. If minor children were born during the marriage, and the parents are living in different states, then jurisdiction may have to be decided pursuant to a Federal statute and that will involve judges conferring and deciding.
- Even if you are granted a divorce, you may have tax liabilities that arose during the marriage because you filed “jointly’ with your spouse and the I.R.S. says you owe taxes. By getting a divorce first, without addressing the tax issue, you could find yourself stuck paying taxes on income that your ex-spouse spent.
- If you get a simple divorce and fail to address the debt issues from the marriage, you could find that you are forced to pay debts your ex-spouse created during the marriage. For example, if you signed a lease, credit card agreement, or purchase contract during the marriage, you could be sued by the creditor after you have been divorced.
- If you try to get a divorce on some grounds that are not recognized in your state, you could find yourself having to start the paperwork over (amending it) and thus incurring the costs and delay to serve the new paperwork. For example, the law of South Carolina does not recognize “mental cruelty” as a grounds for divorce.
- By failing to request alimony in your divorce papers, you are most probably waiving the right to ever claim it from your spouse. If, for example, you obtain a “do it yourself” divorce in South Carolina and discover soon afterwards that your ex-spouse won millions of dollars in the lottery, you will be unable to then go to court and request alimony.
These are just some of the pitfalls you could experience by taking the so-called frugal route of a do-it-yourself divorce. Is it worth the risks?
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