This post is the second post in a series where we alert you to the pitfalls of the Do It Yourself divorce.
Pitfall #2 Utilizing forms drafted by non-lawyers.
You may have seen those creative entrepreneurs marketing their divorce document preparation services on social media pages like Facebook. “Save money! No attorney needed! Let me draft your divorce documents for you!” Just like the problems with internet forms (see Pitfall #1) you risk an invalid divorce if those forms are incorrect. In addition, forms created by a non-lawyer may not operate the way you thought they were going to, or meet the technical requirements of the statutes.
Also, there is much more to a divorce than simply filling out documents and filing them with a court. You need to know the implications of the documents your sign and file. Do you understand your rights and obligations under the law? Are you utilizing the correct process for your situation? The process your friendly document preparer choses to use may not be the right one for your situation. And by using one process you may be losing the benefits of another process.
For example, we recently represented a client who had been told to wait to file for divorce until she could utilize the quick process. By doing so, she lost out on a large sum of money she was entitled as support under the more complicated process. She didn’t know because her non-lawyer friend didn’t know. The money she saved by not getting legal counsel at the beginning of the case is very small in comparison to the amount of money she lost by not utilizing the more “expensive” procedure in the beginning. Her opportunity is gone and we can’t bring it back.
In another example, a client almost ended up with an invalid divorce because he thought he could “fudge” on some facts. His non-lawyer preparation person did not understand the importance of the details of the divorce, and nearly caused a disaster.
Non-lawyers Practicing Law
Not only is it risky to use a non-lawyer to draft legal documents, the non-lawyer is practicing law without a license punishable by up to 2 years in prison and a fine. You have a right to prepare your own legal documents and make your own mistakes. However, a non-lawyer does not have the right to prepare legal documents for you. If they say they do, they clearly do not understand the law and that should make you hesitate in accepting their help.
Avoid The Risk
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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