In recent years, "do it yourself" divorce services offered by online providers have increased in popularity. Online divorce services advertise a painless, cheap divorce process that eschews the need for parties involved to go to court. If that sounds too good to be true, it’s because it often is. Understanding the pitfalls of online divorce can help you avoid buying into a service that will do more harm than good in the long run.
It's Difficult to Verify the Credentials of Online Divorce Providers
With popularity often comes scammers, and online divorce is no exception. There are many scam online divorce providers that charge a fee up-front and then fail to deliver anything to clients.
Even if you find a legitimate online divorce provider, ensuring the credentials of the individuals involved is difficult. Many online divorce providers don't even have attorneys on staff. Instead, they rely on paralegals—and some have no trained legal staff at all. Understanding divorce paperwork and concepts such as child custody or alimony can be challenging if you don't have legal experience. Without an attorney to help you understand divorce paperwork and processes, you might make long-term choices you end up regretting.
Online Divorce Services Advertise a Simple Solution to a Complicated Problem
Online divorce services typically send both parties involved in the divorce a packet of general divorce paperwork and allow the parties to file for divorce online. However, divorce law often varies state by state and even county by county. You don't want to spend hours trying to decipher divorce paperwork only to have your divorce rejected because you didn't fill out some county-specific paperwork.
One of the most significant pitfalls of online divorce is the lack of help clients receive in navigating the divorce. Online services don't help clients understand complicated issues such as alimony, community property, or child custody the way a hired attorney can. For example, let's say a husband receives some property as a gift from his family. It makes sense that would fall under private property and would belong entirely to the husband post-divorce. However, if the couple collectively invests money in the property, the husband's spouse is also entitled to compensation for that investment.
Parties in most divorces also have trouble understanding alimony. In many states, alimony isn't automatic—the spouse seeking alimony must apply for it. Additionally, alimony often only covers a child's basic needs, such as shelter and food. Medical costs or other significant expenses are often excluded from basic alimony packages. An experienced attorney can help clients negotiate to receive the alimony they need.
Navigating the Reality of Divorce Is Challenging Online
Almost nobody expects their marriage to end in divorce. It can be tempting to look at online divorce services as a quick way to get a divorce finalized and end the emotional turmoil of a crumbling relationship. Unfortunately, the easiest way out isn't always the best way out.
In a contested divorce where both parties disagree on topics like alimony, child custody, and community property, an online divorce service won't represent you adequately in court. The lack of knowledgeable, experienced court representatives is one of the biggest pitfalls of online divorce.
Even couples that divorce amicably often fail to account for long-term decisions. For example, what if one of the parties moves to a different state or country? Will the child custody agreement change (if there is one)? How? What if one spouse remarries and their new partner wants to be the child's legal guardian? What if a spouse falls on hard times and can't reliably pay their alimony? What if your ex-spouse changes their mind and decides they want a contested divorce last-minute?
Online divorce services can't answer these questions for you. Relying on an experienced attorney or mediator who has experience helping parties navigate the long-term effects of divorce will ensure both parties make mutually beneficial decisions.
Get Legal Advice from an Experienced Family Law Attorney Today
Divorces are never easy. Our team here at William Kirby, Family Law Attorney will compassionately guide you through the divorce process.To get started, contact our law office at (215) 515-9901 to arrange a consultation.