We live in an age of do-it-yourselfers. Many folks paint their own homes, prepare their own taxes, and, work on their cars; all by themselves. This makes sense when the task or project to be accomplished can be done as competently by a non-professional, as by a professional. Some divorce cases fit that profile, and others do not. Let’s see when it makes sense to do your own divorce, and when it doesn’t.

The first characteristic of a successful DIY divorce is an agreement on all issues with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse. This includes the division of all property and debt, as well as the terms and conditions of child issues: custody; support; possession and access (visitation); and, the allocation of the right to make important decisions for the child or children. There also should be agreement about whether there will be spousal support, and if so, the amount and duration of that support. If there is a disagreement on one or more of those significant issues, then the case needs some professional guidance.

The next trait of a successful DIY divorce is the absence of Family Violence (the use or threat of violence against a family member), and intimidation. If your marriage does not have a safe, peaceful space to discuss issues, then you should not try both deal with your spouse on your own.

Next, both spouses need to have full and complete knowledge of all assets and debts. If there is any doubt about whether you have that degree of knowledge about those things, then a Discovery Plan should be designed and implemented by your lawyer. If you waive discovery, then you may find that you have also waived your right to recover assets for yourself, or to have debt awarded to the other party. This is an important reason for you need to know that you have complete information about the property and debt of both spouses.

If all of those traits are present, then you should also make sure that there are no complicated transfer or tax issues. For example, if done correctly, retirement accounts can be divided without any tax consequences occurring; if not done precisely right, then substantial tax liabilities (and perhaps, penalties) may be realized by one or both spouses.

Finally, you need to have the willingness to spend the time and effort necessary to learn what paperwork needs to be generated, exchanged, filed, and sent to the appropriate entities and agencies, as well as to the court.

If your case does not make it through that maze of qualifications, it may still be possible to resolve the case issues without litigation: Divorce Mediation, done by a lawyer with lots of Family Law experience, may be able to help guide you and your spouse to an agreed resolution, without trial. While Divorce Mediation is not appropriate in all divorces, it may be for yours. To see whether it may be right for you, click here.

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