Why Online Services Are Insufficient When Filing for Divorce

June 4, 2019

Choosing between traditional and technological methods of divorce is not simply about cost.

Divorce could be simultaneously one of the most emotional and detail-oriented issues a person will go through in his or her lifetime. The growing embrace of the digital world for cost- and time-saving online forms for divorce proceedings demonstrate how essential work of a family law divorce lawyer are for making sure a divorce is adequately handled. Unlike online forms, divorce could never be considered “one size fits all.” The available online forms are cookie-cutter and too generic.

Numerous different kinds of people get divorced. The only marriage an online divorce proceedings may work for are those whose marriage was brief and that also have zero retirement, zero assets, zero property and zero children. For these marriages, an online form may be more economical than hiring an attorney. Nonetheless, this assumes the divorcing parties are savvy enough to follow with both the Family Code and applicable court rules. If not, one risks showing up to court to finalize their divorce just to be told by the court that they need to start over at square one. Even in these circumstances, it is often cheaper and quicker to hire an attorney to do the task right.

A quick search of Facebook, Craiglist or even Google might reveal numerous resources offering “cheap, quick and easy online divorces.” Most of the time they go by names such as notarios. This is to prey on the immigrant communities, who often do not recognize that in the United States, notarios are not licensed to practice law. These services may claim that you could get a divorce for as little as $250. This is actually common in Harris County, which is strange, considering the filing fee for a divorce in that county is a lot more than that. Unfortunately for people who fall victim to these cons, it usually costs more to clean up the mess.

One of the first steps in filing for divorce is often what trips up people trying to do it without an attorney. This is the problem of service. In a divorce, just like in any municipal case, the petitioner must serve the respondent with the petition. They must supply verification to the courtroom of this with a return citation filed with the court. Incorrect execution of this step will restrict the divorce from finalizing. Often, the respondent can not be found or is actively hiding. In these types of situations, I have yet to find a non-attorney who can navigate the procedural waters alone. Here once again, both time and money could be saved by simply contracting an attorney.

Occasionally spouses agree to divorce and even agree on how to separate their assets. When a couple is in this scenario and one spouse suggests using an online form, this raises a major reddish flag. Is the spouse hiding assets? Are they trying to claim separate real estate that should be community property? In most marriages, one spouse controls the finances a lot more than the other. There may also be educational or professional advantages one party has over the other. An attorney might be able to map the community estate and identify any separate property. If the arrangement is truly as fair as the spouse makes it appear, this will be rapidly confirmed by consulting with an attorney. Simply separating assets without a professional involved is a slippery slope. Often these kinds of divorce cases end up being reopened by the courtroom, if the injured party is able to employ an attorney in adequate time after the fact. Once this occurs, these cases become very costly for the litigants.