What Happens If You Do Your Divorce Documents Completely Wrong?
“I have a guess ma’am” “You got these documents online. Because they’re completely wrong, and I can’t divorce you today.”
Going to court is a lot of hurry up and wait. You hurry up to make sure you’re there “on time” and then you wait for your turn. It’s not uncommon to wait 20, 30, 40 mins, even more. With all that waiting, I see my fair share of divorce disasters. People who, for whatever reason (maybe money, maybe fear of lawyers), have decided to do their own divorce, and you can tell they really have no idea what’s going on, if their documents are correct, if they are saying the right things in front of the judge, and things are just going off the rails entirely.
I really feel for these people.
A big part of me wants to jump in and save them.
With 10 minutes of my time, I could most likely point them in the right direction and save them hours and hours of their time, and potentially thousands of dollars in attorneys fees down the road.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that it’s more than just getting the judge to stamp the papers and pronounce you divorced.
It’s what’s in those papers that matters.
Even if you have no property and no kids, there may be some legal relationship between you and your spouse that needs to be addressed in your divorce papers, otherwise it could turn into a real pain in the butt down the road.
That’s what lawyers do. They look at your situation and make sure you have plugged all the leaks as best as possible. Of course, nothing is fool proof and there aren’t any guarantees, but there’s a big difference between having a little legal advice and none at all.
I can’t count the number of times that people have called my office with a problem related to a DIY divorce, they hire, they pay me 3, 5, 10 thousand dollars, to help them, and it’s something that probably could have been dealt with upfront for less than 1000.
So back to this lady in court, I saw the other day.
The judge was frustrated because she knew the lady wanted to be divorced.
It’s a big deal.
It’s the end of a chapter. And it can be scary to go into court by yourself.
But the judge’s hands were tied. The document itself was really screwed up.
The pronouns were wrong, child support was wrong (it was using the old law), and custody was even wrong.
The lady gave her husband residential custody without even knowing it!
The judge handed her the documents and told her that she’d have to come back another time. The woman left really frustrated.
Sometimes I’ll catch people like that in the hall and give them some direction, other times I don’t have time, or it’s not possible for one reason or the other.
So what could she have done before going to court?
There are some great resources online if you are trying to do your divorce on your own. There are also attorneys that provide unbundled services, meaning you can hire them for one hour and they will provide you with some solid direction and great advice.
The biggest mistake you can make is not at least exploring the option of help before you move forward.