Tuesday, May 1, 2018

DIY Divorce Negotiating -- Why it's a Bad Idea!

In an age when more and more people want to "do it themselves" with so many things, people negotiating their own divorces seems like a natural.  After all, who's more interested in the outcome than the parties themselves?  Think of the money they can save by not hiring lawyers, and think of the fights that can be avoided by keeping the lawyers out of it. Plus, the parties either believe they know the details of their case or trust their spouse will share the information. 

Everyone knows Texas is a 50-50 state, right, so dividing things up should be easy. And you can find all the forms for child support and visitation online.

So, what could go wrong?

Although I am naturally an optimist, I have to point out a number of potentially costly problems with the DIY approach. 

1.  You may be misinformed.  For example, property doesn't have to be divided 50-50, and usually there's some variance from that.  There are a number of factors that can affect the division. You may also not know whether something is separate property (not to be divided) or included in the community property.  Some situations are complicated and relying on the internet may not be smart.

2.  You can be bullied. Hopefully, that's not the case, but I have seen numerous cases where one party dominates the other and obtains a very favorable property division, child support order or custody arrangement. That is much less likely when there are attorneys involved.

3.  You may not be aware of the true strengths of your bargaining position.  Knowledge of the law, along with experience, can unlock a lot of options for getting the result you want to achieve.  Some issues are settled and don't need to be re-litigated.  Or, you may be in a weak position and it would be helpful to learn that before you are in too deep.

4.  You probably have no experience with how different approaches work.  For example, you or your spouse may want a 50-50 time sharing arrangement with the kids.  There are several different models used for that purpose and an experienced lawyer can help you understand how they work and which might be best option for you.

5.  Overall, it is better to have someone experienced to bounce ideas off.  You are dealing with serious and very important issues.  Having a second opinion or alternate point of view can help you test your ideas or your spouse's ideas before you agree to them. Take a little time and have a discussion.  What you are discussing will affect you and your children the rest of your lives.

While the tendency may be to favor saving money by doing the negotiating yourself,  that can easily leave you with bad agreements and bad court orders.  What you are going through has such enormous effects on your future that you really need to be smart and get help.  Be smart, not cheap!