Doing your own divorce in Louisiana without an attorney? What could go wrong?
Just like doing your own surgery, handling any legal proceeding on your own is fraught with danger. Do you know what you are signing? Are you sure you fully understand the implications of what you are asking the court to do for you? Are better options for you? Do you understand what your obligations are? This series illustrates just a few of the problems with self-representation in family law cases.
Pitfall #1 Using internet forms.
Louisiana’s laws are different than any other state’s laws. Internet forms may not contain the necessary elements to render an effective divorce or properly divide your property and debts.
These websites have lots of disclaimers. You can find them at the bottom of the page or on a back page. When you read them, you will see that they are telling you not to totally trust the forms. First, they tell you the site is not a law firm. Second, they warn you that the site does not provide advice, legal opinions or a recommendation. Third, the site specifically states it provides no guarantee the forms are up to date with changes in the law. Fourth, you are warned the site is not a substitution for consulting an attorney.
When you use a form that does not fully meet the Louisiana requirements or the proper process and procedure throughout the case, your divorce may not be valid. For example, your divorce judgment is granted and you go about your business. Years later you discover that you made a mistake in your paperwork or in the process you used. By then, you may have remarried. You may have accumulated significant assets. This has actually happened in Louisiana and the courts were not sympathetic. 16 years after a couple’s divorce was granted, a court found the divorce was not initiated using the proper process for the couple’s situation. Therefore, the court ruled the divorce was invalid, and they were still married.
If your divorce judgment is found to be invalid, your ex spouse will have claims against the assets you accumulated after the judgment. In addition, you may be responsible for debts your ex-spouse ran up after the judgment. Even worse, assuming it can get worse, and it can, your remarriage may not be legal.
Don’t risk a disaster. Instead, hire an experienced family law lawyer to protect your interests and make sure your divorce is valid. Shelley Goff at Goff and Goff Attorneys has been practicing family law for 28 years. Call us. We can help you navigate the process as smoothly as possible. 318-255-1760.
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