COLUMN: Divorce kits can pose legal issues

I often get calls from people asking if there is any reason why they should not use the “do-it-yourself” divorce resources available

  • Mar. 16, 2013 7:00 a.m.

Legal-Ease, by Karen McNeilly

I often get calls from people asking if there is any reason why they should not use the “do-it-yourself” divorce resources available over the Internet.

While these resources may seem like a cheap alternative to hiring a lawyer to prepare a separation agreement or negotiate a settlement with your spouse, they can end up costing you much more in the long run.

Even in situations where you and your spouse are able to discuss things without fighting, hiring a lawyer to provide you with the legal advice you need in order to understand your rights and obligations, and to prepare documents that will withstand a legal challenge, is worth the investment in your future and your children’s future.

If you or your spouse do not get legal advice so that you understand your rights and obligations, any settlement you ultimately reach can be challenged in court, and the court will determine whether your agreement will stand on the basis of whether your agreement is “fair.”

If your settlement was reached without full disclosure of each of your financial situations, or it does not provide what the law requires for child support, spousal support or division of your property, the court can set aside the agreement and impose its own settlement.

Some of the laws which apply to separating spouses are not negotiable.

Other laws, like those that govern spousal support, allow some room for negotiation, but there is an acceptable range.

Paying for legal advice and assistance at the beginning of your separation can save you much more in the long run by ensuring that your final settlement is fair and will withstand a review by the courts.

The legal and emotional costs of trying to change a settlement, or to defend an unfair settlement will be much more than doing it right the first time.

Karen is an associate lawyer with RDM Lawyers LLP. She practices in the area of family law.  If you have questions or comments about this article, email them to legalease@abbynews.com.