For those who can make a clean break, have nothing
to dispute, no children and little assets, a do-it-yourself divorce
can be ideal. It's an alternative offered in some states.
With this type of divorce, you represent yourself
-- instead of lawyer representing you -- in court. Legal documents
can be prepared for you by an agency, and submitted to the court
for you. According to Divorce Wizards in Newport Beach, Calif.,
once the papers are filed with the court, the spouse is required
to sign divorce papers that are served with the opportunity to contest
When the case is opened, you complete more worksheets
about property distribution and a parenting plan, which becomes
a basis for the marriage settlement. If there are no assets and
no children, there are no signatures required, provided the case
remains uncontested. Ultimately, final documents are filed with
the court. It may require an appearance before a judge to explain
your reasoning for the divorce. When the court gets around to signing
them, the divorce becomes final. The steps and costs involved in
this type of divorce vary from state to state.
Susan Goldstein, family law attorney and co-author
with Valerie Colb of The Smart Divorce: A Practical Guide to
the 200 Things You Must Know, says these types of divorces fit
for a couple with no children, limited assets and nothing to dispute.
She says the people who tend to use the do-it-yourself divorce
have much more debt than assets.
"The problem is the paperwork isn't drafted in a way
to protect each spouse from debt the other is assuming," Goldstein
says. She maintains that a lot of places have paralegals doing the
paperwork, instead of a lawyer. Lynne Diamond, founder of Divorce
Wizards and a divorce mediator, says she has paralegals who prepare
the documents, and the agreements are supervised by attorneys.
"The paperwork will not be a well-worded court order,"
she confirms. For people who absolutely have no money to afford
a lawyer, Goldstein sees the necessity for some to choose this method.
"I'm not a fan, but I understand why they're there and what purpose
they serve," Goldstein concedes.
-- Posted: June 30, 1999