Columbus Dispatch: Letter to the Editor-Do it Yourself Divorce

Tuesday,  July 29, 2008 3:08 AM

As a family-law practitioner, I have observed first-hand the domestic judges’ and the clerk’s difficulties in processing do-it-yourself domestic-relations cases (“Do-it-yourself divorce,” Dispatch article, July 21). I have seen the self-filers struggle with complex legal issues and procedures and become frustrated because they have to return to court many times because the paperwork is incorrect. Court personnel, including the judges, cannot give legal advice. Nor can I as a lawyer ethically offer unsolicited advice. 

Particularly pertaining to dissolution-of-marriage cases, as long as the self-prepared paperwork meets the minimum requirements as to form, the substance of the couple’s agreement usually will not be scrutinized by the judge, particularly if the couple does not have minor children.

Therein lies the problem, and often the tragedy for those who choose not to obtain legal advice and assistance when they end their marriage. Most people are lulled by the simplicity of the dissolution process and do not recognize the legal and financial significance of a separation agreement. Just because you agree with your spouse does not make it right or good for you.

Many people do not understand the concept of marital property, particularly the right to share retirement benefits accumulated by the other spouse, or the general right to keep property brought to the marriage free and clear of the other spouse, including real estate.

Many competent lawyers have dissolution fees that are far less than the amounts stated in the news article, including a free initial consultation. Unless the parties have been married for a very short time, do not have children, do not have major assets or debts, do not have health issues and do not own a home or business, the legal fees for a dissolution are well worth the investment.


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