You don’t know what you don’t know
In these tough economic times, everyone’s looking to save some money, especially when it comes to expensive services like lawyers. However, there are plenty of good reasons why you should think twice before downloading some documents off the Internet and filing them yourself without the advice of a lawyer.
There’s an old saying that someone who represents themselves has a fool for a client. That’s especially true when your only resource is the Internet. There are many online businesses who will sell you “court-approved” divorce forms for any state that they “guarantee” will be accepted at court. Many of these services are scams and sell you generic forms and just change the state or court name at the top. Needless to say, most of these forms will not be accepted in court and you will probably have to hire a lawyer to fix the mess.
Very recently the Tennessee Supreme Court approved the use of a standardized divorce form that may be downloaded from the state’s court website. This form is restricted to limited cases where there are no minor children involved, no real estate, and no retirement planning. Many clients have at least one of those items to deal with, so the state form is of limited use, and any other form you find on the Internet for free or for sale is probably missing some key terms and language that will cause it to be rejected in court.
Even if you are one of those people who doesn’t have any children, real estate, or retirement planning, you can still make serious mistakes when attempting to represent yourself in a divorce. The forms you find on the Internet are generic templates designed for very limited purposes, and you may need some custom language to properly address your situation.
A good example is alimony. Most forms will have a question with a blank with something like “Do you want alimony? Y/N; If yes, then state how much for how long?” To the average person that seems pretty straightforward, but the problem is that there are multiple types of alimony for different situations and legal standards about how much someone should get and for how long. Just writing “$500 per month for life” is very bad lawyering and could lead to trouble.
I once had a consultation with a man who was complaining his ex-wife wouldn’t stop demanding he pay her the $5000 alimony award, but when I reviewed the paperwork she drafted herself, it was clear he didn’t owe her anything. She had worded it wrong and as result, I made that man very happy that day. Another good alimony example is of a woman that gets an alimony award and then goes and shacks up with another man, and now the ex-husband is paying rent for her new boyfriend. If that man had a good lawyer, that wouldn’t be possible because a properly drafted agreement would cover that scenario and provide for the automatic termination of alimony if she cohabits with another man.
You will not find any online divorce forms that can cover every scenario and nuance of your specific situation, which is why it is totally worth the money to hire a lawyer. I know I’m biased, but I’ve seen plenty of do-it-yourself divorce papers and they’re almost all bad. You don’t know what you don’t know, and no one’s going to tell you unless you hire a lawyer.
Lawyers don’t have to be expensive, and you might be saving yourself a lot of money in the long run by getting it done right the first time. If you’re interested in learning more about divorce, then please contact our office today.