Unexpected Challenges of a DIY Divorce

Patricia TichenorLegal

diy divorce challenges | couple signing divorce papers with mediator

You and your spouse have made the difficult decision to separate and file for divorce. Since neither of you feels there are fault-based grounds for your divorce (e.g. adultery, cruelty, or abandonment), you’ve decide to pursue a no-fault, uncontested divorce where you both represent yourselves in your case.

It is possible to successfully take a “do-it-yourself” approach to your divorce, and it can potentially save you both a lot of money in attorney retainer fees. However, if you’re planning to go this route, it’s important to be prepared for some common DIY divorce challenges that many couples face.

Here are a few unexpected obstacles you might encounter on the path to a pro se divorce.

1. You don’t agree on things you thought you could work out.

When you first started discussing your separation and divorce, you and your spouse thought you’d be able to work out all your issues and collaborate on a mutually beneficial marital settlement agreement. However, when the time comes to actually draft your agreement, neither of you wants to budge on certain issues.

Emotions tend to run high when couples are discussing their divorce, so it’s natural that you and your spouse may butt heads or want to “one-up” each other as you’re dividing your assets and debts. Things can get especially tricky when minor children are involved and you have to decide on a custody and visitation arrangement.

The best thing to do is set the agreement aside until you’re both in a calmer, more rational state of mind. It may take you some time and several attempts to get everything out on paper, but it’s worth it to have a finalized document that you both feel is fair.

If it turns out you and your spouse don’t see eye to eye on everything, you can always look into the option of drafting a partial settlement agreement. This document memorializes the decisions you can agree on, and leaves the rest up to a judge.

2. You run into some paperwork issues.

There’s a lot of paperwork involved in filing a divorce case, particularly if you and your spouse have minor children.

With the various Petitions and Final Orders that need to be drafted, signed, and notarized, you need to be meticulous and highly organized to ensure that every form is filled out and filed correctly. If a form is missing, details are incomplete, or a notary signature is not obtained (on a form that requires one), it will only delay your divorce proceedings.

You’ll also want to ensure that you and your spouse are paying attention to other requirements set forth by the Court, such as response deadlines, filing fees, the number of copies of certain forms, etc.

3. Your spouse decides to get a lawyer.

Even if you initially intend to represent yourselves in your divorce case, you and your spouse both have the right to hire your own attorneys to represent you in court. If you remain pro se but your spouse decides to hire legal representation, it can make discussing your divorce case a bit tricky. All paperwork and communications must go through your spouse’s attorney at that point; you are not simply able to “talk things out” with your spouse.

Going up against an attorney can also be intimidating if you’re representing yourself, as the attorney (and now, your spouse) has the advantage of years of legal experience and insider know-how when it comes to preparing and arguing a divorce case.

Don’t face your DIY divorce challenges alone.

Whether you’re both representing yourselves or your spouse has hired an attorney, My Legal Case Coach can help you prepare and file your DIY Virginia divorce case, including partial or full settlement agreements, forms to help you properly draft your own pleadings for your case, and invaluable one-to-one coaching which will give you step-by-step guidance throughout your proceedings.

With your purchase of any forms packet, whether for drafting a settlement agreement or filing for divorce, you’ll receive one free hour of one-to-one virtual legal coaching with a licensed Virginia attorney. Your coach is available on your schedule to answer your questions, review your completed forms, and offer you support as you prepare to represent yourself.   Better yet, if you find you need more than that one free hour of custom coaching from your experienced Virginia attorney and coach, you can purchase additional Ongoing Coaching time for as little as $100 per hour.

Divorce is never easy, but with MLCC, you’ll be well on your way to feeling confident and well-prepared. To get started, take our quiz to find out which case packet is right for you, or schedule a free 15-minute consultation.