For many people, the idea of divorce is overwhelming for a number of reasons. In addition to ending your marriage and dividing your assets, you must also contend with the financial cost. Will it be expensive? Can you afford it?
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These are normal questions to ask, and it’s understandable that anyone might feel intimidated and anxious about the costs associated with divorce. In fact, some people are tempted to turn to do-it-yourself divorce.
In recent years, a number of DIY divorce websites have appeared online. These sites promise an easy and straightforward path to getting a divorce without hiring a lawyer.
However, there are downsides to doing this. Technically, anyone can represent himself or herself in court, and there is no legal requirement to hire a lawyer.
On the other hand, divorce is a lawsuit. Like any other lawsuit, there are procedural rules to follow and statutory deadlines for filing various forms and motions. Additionally, a divorce involves two parties.
While you might want an uncontested divorce, you can’t control what your spouse wants. If you have children or you own a property, a divorce can quickly become far more complicated than you anticipated.
If you’re thinking of a DIY divorce, consider these five possible pitfalls.
1. You Could End Up with Fewer Assets or More Debt
Many people assume that all divorces involve an equal division of all assets and debts. However, this isn’t always the case. In North Carolina, as in the majority of most states, courts divide property according to the rule of equitable distribution. This doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is divided 50/50.
In some cases, one spouse might own separate property, which belongs solely to that person and isn’t subject to division. Also, some debts may not be marital debts.
If you try to negotiate property distribution and debt allocation on your own, you may inadvertently end up taking on more debt than you should. You could also walk away with far less property than you’re entitled to.
2. You May Not Receive Enough Child Support
Courts in North Carolina decide how much child support to order based on the best interest of the children. The statute includes a formula for determining how much child support the court should order.
However, there are circumstances in which children require more support. The child support award might also be subject to adjustment based on what kind of custody arrangement the parents have.
You can return to court after your divorce if you need to modify a child support order, but it’s generally much easier to get it right the first time rather than attempt to fix a mistake at a later date. Returning to court down the road is also likely to cost more in the long run than hiring an experienced divorce lawyer like this one upfront, as you may encounter opposition from your ex.
3. Retirement Accounts and Property Assets Can Be Complicated
Have you considered all of your assets as you plan for a divorce? Do you or your ex own a business? What about retirement accounts or a pension?
Divorcing couples sometimes overlook these types of accounts when they start dividing their assets. It’s much easier to think about the property you can see and touch, such as your house, cars, and furniture.
When it comes to dividing a retirement account, however, you’re dealing with a non-tangible asset. Furthermore, you or your spouse might have started contributing to the account before your marriage, which means you must figure out how much of your retirement assets belong to you alone and how much is considered marital property.
4. DIY Divorces Aren’t Always State Specific
Each state has its own unique rules and laws regarding family law and divorce. From there, each county within each state can have its own specific rules and paperwork required to file a divorce, schedule a court date and any necessary hearings, and finalize the divorce.
If you’ve ever renewed your vehicle registration or your driver’s license, you probably know there is paperwork involved and maybe sometimes even a little bit of frustration. Now consider how you would handle an eviction on your own, or maybe a legal dispute at work or with a neighbor. Would you write your own will or draft your own real estate deed when you sell your house?
Generally, divorce is more complicated that these types of cases and documents. If you go with a DIY package of forms you purchase online, there’s a chance you’ll be missing a form or won’t quite know how to fill them out or file them with the court.
5. Your Spouse Might Not Agree
Even with an experienced lawyer at your side, you can go to court and have your spouse spring a surprise issue or disagreement on you at the last minute. People can sometimes get last-minute jitters when they appear in court to end their marriage.
Knowledgeable divorce lawyers know how to negotiate these last-minute disputes so your case can proceed smoothly. When you’re on your own, however, you might not know how to negotiate a resolution with your spouse. This can cause a delay in your case, and you might need to end up hiring a divorce lawyer anyway.
Contact a North Carolina Divorce Lawyer About Your Case
DIY divorce might work in cases where the marriage was short in duration, there are no children, and the couple has very few, if any, assets. However, most situations aren’t like that. If you’re thinking about a DIY divorce, it’s worth your time to schedule a consultation with an experienced North Carolina divorce lawyer so you can determine if your case is too complex for you to comfortably handle on your own.
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