Over the years, Do-It-Yourself Divorce Kits, or DIY Divorce Kits, have been gaining in popularity throughout the United States. They have been advertised as being “simple, affordable, and fast” and advertised as only taking “3 easy steps”. However, are these kits too good to be true? Let’s explore exactly what a do-it-yourself divorce is, what it requires, and why a do-it-yourself divorce might not be for you.
What is a do-it-yourself divorce kit?
A do-it-yourself divorce kit, or DIY divorce kit is essentially the required paperwork package that you and your spouse need to complete your divorce in the State and County you live in. Each State, and sometimes County, will have a set of paperwork required to present to the Court before you are able to get legally divorced. In Illinois, this paperwork package will likely include a form for a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, an Appearance form for one of the spouses, a Summons form, a Military Affidavit, a form for a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage, if you have children a form for a Parenting Order and Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities, and possibly a few extra forms depending on the specific County in Illinois where you are planning to get divorced. There are also directions in the kit advising you how to fill out the forms in case it is not clear. Again, these kids vary depending on the State and also the County in that State in which you are getting divorced, so the kits and forms are not interchangeable.
Is a do-it-yourself divorce kit right for you and your divorce situation?
A DIY divorce kit can only be used if you and your spouse are in total agreement with all parenting issues and financial issues. This is what is called an uncontested divorce case. If you and your spouse have discussed and you both know exactly what you want to do regarding parenting time, decision-making for the minor children, how to divide up the property, and what support should be paid, then a DIY might make sense for your case. If there is any disagreement whatsoever, even on a small issue, then a DIY won’t work for you. The DIY divorce forms are meant to be filled out and submitted to the court without the court having to get involved and help with disagreements.
If a do-it-yourself divorce kit is right for you and your spouse, will it save you money?
One of the main reasons couples want to use a DIY divorce kit, is to save money on attorney’s fees and costs. Most attorneys require a significant lump sum retainer payment made up front, or a flat fee lump sum payment for an uncontested divorce upon case.
On the other hand, a DIY divorce kit purchased online can be purchased for about $299 (based on a Google search), give or take a few hundred depending on the state and the county. If the fee for the divorce kit does not cover the filing fees of the court for the filing and completion of the divorce case, then those would cost about another $300-$400. Overall, based on the cost of a DIY divorce, even with the addition of court fees that need to be paid, it looks like the DIY divorce kit would save you money upfront for the overall divorce process and completion.
What are the drawbacks to using a DIY divorce kit if it seems to be right for your case?
Although the cost of a DIY divorce kit is appealing, and you believe everything is agreed upon between you and your spouse, serious issues can and likely will result from going about the divorce yourself and not employing the assistance of an attorney. Money spent on an attorney from the onset of the case would be well spent to avoid future issues that could come up from an improperly drafted or incomplete divorce judgment or parenting agreement.
The divorce kit cannot advise you of the intricacies of law, and what you are entitled to under those laws. There are specific formulas used to calculate child support and spousal support, and certain laws that determine whether someone qualifies for spousal support/maintenance that without an attorney, you might not know about. There are also tax implications that come with dividing property and assets that need to be considered when trying to reach an agreement on these issues with your spouse. The same goes for dividing retirement accounts or the division of stocks and brokerage accounts. Dividing the marital residence can also be complicated depending on the mortgage, what the equity is, and whose name is on what.
Even more worrying is what could happen if there is a mistake made or something not considered before entering into a final parenting agreement, or allocation judgment. Your involvement with your children could be negatively impacted if you sign an agreement that is not in your favor. Parenting agreements can only be modified based on very specific requirements, so you could be stuck with an agreement that hurts your relationship with your children if you don’t have an attorney drafting it or even reviewing it before it is entered. If there are mistakes made, and you need to come back to court to fix them, it will not be cheap as you likely will need the help of an attorney. Spending money initially for an attorney to represent you in your divorce is worth it in the long run to prevent mistakes in your agreements, and to prevent having to pay even more money later to fix those mistakes in court.
Consider employing the assistance of a skilled Chicago divorce attorney, like those at Anderson & Boback, to assist you with your divorce case to make sure no mistakes are made, and you are getting the benefit of your divorce agreement with your spouse.