California do-it-yourself divorce could lead to frustration, loss of rights and greater expense
Solana Beach, CA – California couples considering divorce may be thinking about forgoing the court process on the way to divorce. Doing so can save the time, money and stress that usually accompanies the dissolution of marriage.
Those couples should know that divorce is a legal process and is fraught with pitfalls that must be maneuvered carefully. This according to California Family Law Attorney John Griffith of Griffith, Young, and Lass in Solana Beach.
Griffith suggests that before couples consider going through the DIY approach, the dissolution should be uncontested. In other words, the husband and wife should be on good terms and be able to heed legal advice while keeping their financial and life affairs in mind.
Griffith also suggests that the husband and wife have few assets and limited income, which can make the DIY process easier to manage. However, just because the process may be simpler, that doesn’t mean that the couple can skim over the details.
To ensure that both spouses obtain the best possible outcome, Griffith explains three possible risks inherent to the DIY divorce process.
1. An Unfair Outcome
“Proceed with divorce on your own and you might end up feeling shortchanged months or years into the future,” Griffith says.
The family law attorney has witnessed instances of some couples ending up back in court years later re-arguing over the same issues.
One reason couples end up back in court is because the forms weren’t filled out correctly or submitted on time.
Another reason may be due to inadequate asset division or a spouse that fails to disclose the proper assets. These problems usually stem from spouses attempting to divide assets and calculate child support and alimony without an experienced family law attorney providing valuable insight and advice.
For example, exchanging the value of a retirement account for a stock portfolio poses risks if those stocks tank years later. An experienced divorce attorney can ensure that all assets are divided in the best interests of both spouses.
“Hiring a good lawyer is a sound investment in securing your future and the future of your children,” Griffith says.
2. Lengthy and Expensive Delays
The paperwork required to file a divorce and the proceedings themselves appear straightforward, but they can be highly complicated. The paperwork also won’t answer legal questions while a qualified divorce attorney can.
For instance, California requires that spouses live in the state for at least six months before a divorce petition can be filed. After the receiving spouse has been served with the divorce paperwork, the couple must then wait six months before the divorce can be finalized.
File too soon or don’t follow the proper procedures and the judge can postpone or dismiss the case altogether.
Also, a judge may decide to dismiss a case where the divorce settlement is contested by one spouse or if there are complications regarding asset division and child custody or support arrangements.
Griffith explains that there may also be tax consequences of financial decisions, which can lead to unexpected costs and financial problems for years down the line.
In some cases, couples who go the DIY route end up spending more money in the long run, because a qualified lawyer is needed to undo the damage done by the first DIY divorce attempt.
3. Rights Forfeiture
California is one of few states that uses a community property system, which means that all assets and debts that both spouses acquired during the marriage will be shared evenly at the time of divorce.
This can include homes, savings and retirement accounts.
Property that is considered separate under the law, like inheritances and gifts, will not be divided. Property that was owned before the marriage will also not be divided (as long as the property wasn’t comingled with marital property).
Not knowing how property is divided or what property may be included in the dissolution of the marriage can mean that one or both spouses give up their rights to that property forever.
Griffith says that if the couple consents to court orders on issues like child support, alimony and property division without understanding the legal and financial consequences, the husband and wife may end up forfeiting those rights forever.
DIY divorces may work for some, but they are not advised if one spouse is angry, there are disagreements in how assets should be shared and if there is a history of abuse. Going through with a do-it-yourself split also requires extensive research into the California divorce process.
Griffith says, “Even if your divorce is amicable and you feel that your spouse is completely honest regarding finances and assets, and you decide to go through with a DIY divorce, a divorce lawyer can ensure that all financial matters are thoroughly analyzed, and all documents scoured so that the final agreement is fair for both of you.”
Griffith also warns that the Judge will not make an allowance based on the couple’s decision to represent themselves, also known as going pro se. The Judge will hold the husband and wife to the same standards as an attorney.
To ensure the best possible outcome in an upcoming divorce, call Solana Beach divorce attorneys Griffith, Young & Lass for a free consultation at 858-345-1720
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