By Doris N. Ayala, PhD, MJ

When people finally utter those decisive words, “I want a divorce”, their next words are often, “right now!” It’s understandable to want to bring an unpleasant life situation to a quick conclusion, but making a decision based on emotion can later lead to regret and uncertainty.

The same goes for the decision as to who will handle your divorce. It’s better to be smart, than regretful.

If you’ve decided to pursue a pro se divorce you will not need an attorney. In fact, deciding to get an attorney can amount to more in court costs than necessary. You only need to hire an attorney if your divorce is contested by either spouse.

Many people start their search for help on the internet, surfing for information or direction on how to navigate the numerous possibilities. This search will yield scores of divorce lawyers, information about divorce costs, and online legal websites that offer quick, painless and cheap filing for your divorce. So, what do you do? Think about your options cleverly.

While the online legal websites appear easy to use and foolproof, the fact of the matter is that anything legal can be confusing, and the online legal website papers can be frustrating and time consuming. Instead, having guidance from a divorce professional can be a real advantage.

Regretfully, many people choose to put their pro se divorce in the hands of an online legal service and sometimes do not fully understand the information on the paperwork.  If you are thinking of doing this, here are a few things you should know about using an online legal service instead of a professional divorce service:

  •   Online legal service websites can be confusing and may not offer the support needed to complete the needed divorce paperwork. Online divorce proceedings often begin with a questionnaire, which may be the first of many documents containing inscrutable “legalese” that makes it difficult to complete paperwork.
  •  Online legal services do not stand by you in court. After filing for a pro se divorce, it’s common for the couple to have to appear before a judge in court to review the final agreement. He/she may have questions about how divisions of assets were made, parenting responsibilities, etc. If you went with an online service, you will be on your own standing before the judge. However, a divorce professional can be right at your side to provide the support you may need.
  •  Many online legal services may  not guarantee their work They may or may not offer a refund if paperwork is not accepted by the courts, or they may only provide assistance for a limited amount of days or time period from purchase of service.  If all does not go well in court, you may have to provide written proof, or navigate other obstacles with the online company to correct matters. Divorce professionals care about the outcome of your case and work with you until the judgment of dissolution is obtained.
  •  Online legal service websites will not help you intimately resolve your sensitive issues. Because they are experienced with the court system, divorce professionals know the legal formulas used to determine the proper division of assets and determine equitable parenting responsibilities. They also are available to talk with you personally about how to approach sensitive issues that appear only as a number on the online legal service forms.
  •  Online legal services cannot refer you to local services and professionals to help you. If in the process of divorcing you have need for a financial consultant, psychologist, social worker or other skilled professional, your online service most likely cannot give you a proper referral. A divorce professional, on the other hand, usually has referrals that are local, highly recommended and competent. You will find someone close that you can work with on a one-to-one basis.
  •  It’s hard to establish a relationship with an online legal service. A divorce professional is someone accessible that you can sit down with and meet in person. You can discuss your situation in detail, rather than just articulating it in a brief answer on a questionnaire. It can be comforting to work with a professional who can facilitate the process from start to finish. 
  •  Online legal services are cheaper, but may lack value.  While online legal services may come at a bargain basement price, they often do little besides supply paperwork for their clients. The fees of a divorce professional may be higher than the online legal website, but their value is exponentially greater. As you move through the process, they help you find the support and resources you need not just for filing, but for appearing in court and recovering from the process too.

Divorce professionals like those at Divorce Dimensions work with couples who are interested in pursuing a pro se divorce. They guide them through the system with grace and dignity, helping to facilitate the petition for divorce and the other legal paperwork. Divorce professionals are familiar with the laws of the court and have experience helping couples come to amicable agreements about financial and parental responsibilities while going through the divorce process.

Who will walk with you through your pro se divorce? Think about your options and make a smart choice. If you have any questions about the role of divorce professionals in your pro se divorce, call us at Divorce Dimensions.

Dr. Ayala is the founder of Divorce Dimensions has a doctorate in social work and a Masters of Jurisprudence in child and family law. Her mission is to help those who are ending their marriage to pursue a positive future beginning with an affordable divorce. She is not an attorney and will not provide legal advice, nor mediation or psychotherapy, but refers clients to trustworthy individuals who can perform these services for you and prepare you towards a pro se uncontested divorce.