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Is DIY Divorce a Good Idea? – Part I

Occasionally, our office gets questions from people anticipating a divorce as to whether it is a “good idea” to file the divorce paperwork by themselves.

Of course, there is no black and white answer to this question because every divorce case is different, and every couple will bring different issues and challenges to the table. However, if you are considering going through the divorce process on your own (i.e., without an attorney’s professional guidance), here are some important things to consider.

Paperwork in the State of Colorado is Accessible

When considering filing for divorce on their own, people often feel intimidated by the paperwork they have to fill out, and rightly so. The paperwork can be complicated, and there are usually many “moving pieces” in a divorce case (especially if children are involved).

However, in the State of Colorado, most of the forms you need are available for download on the Colorado Supreme Court website.

If you’re willing to do your homework and if your case is not too complicated, you may be able to manage your own divorce paperwork.

Recently, a man who I had represented years ago asked my office for the paperwork he would need to modify his divorce agreement. Since we had worked together previously and he felt that his ex-wife would be amiable to a change in their divorce agreement, someone in my office printed out the forms, and he went on his way.

In that case, it seemed like things would probably work out. Time will tell. But he had a solid divorce agreement that had been worked out with attorneys who really knew what they were doing; a big factor working in his favor. Additionally, the provisions he wanted to change were not too complicated.

Good Intentions Gone Bad

The biggest argument in favor of working with an attorney to finalize your divorce is this: if you do it right the first time, it may cost you less money and emotional trauma in the long run.

Here’s an example: a couple I subsequently got involved with realized soon after their nuptials that they just weren’t a good fit. It was truly a case of a square peg in a round hole. [They had children together before they were married.]

Neither of them believed the other was a terrible person, they just weren’t a good match. These two people were educated (she had a college degree and he was working on his Ph.D.) and friendly toward one another.

Together, they went to the website, downloaded a parenting plan, filled it out and submitted it to the Court. The Court approved it and voila, they were divorced.

It seems too easy to be true… and it was. For the first couple of years, things went smoothly. However, two years into their divorce things started to change. The ex-wife wanted to move back to Texas, and the ex-husband responded by saying, “Well, you can do whatever you want, but the kids are staying in Colorado.”

They revisited the parenting paperwork they had filled out two years prior only to find that it was totally inadequate: the terms were ambiguous and it was virtually impossible to figure out what the agreement said about this situation and what their intent was.

To litigate the issue, each side spent about $15,000 in attorney’s fees to have to the Court determine what would happen. In the end, the judge initially determined that the paperwork did allow her to move to Texas with the kids… however, it did not clearly address what the parenting time would look like after the move.

This couple spent a collective $30,000 to go back and revisit the ”agreement”, not to mention the emotional distress inflicted on themselves and the children over the argument. Had they hired an attorney for a fraction of the cost when they were initially going through an amicable divorce, they could have saved themselves a considerable amount of trouble.

If you are going through a divorce, it’s always better to have an attorney representing your case. Get it done right the first time. Call our office today at (720) 999-9506 to set up a free consultation.