Welcome back and thanks for joining us again for this discussion on the pitfalls of DIY divorces and how to avoid them. In our introductory article we talked about the importance of knowing the law, and fact-checking your sources when researching for your divorce. After all, there’s so much information available on the internet, but very little of it is actually relevant to Michigan’s divorce laws. Moving on we’re going to look at the next two, equally important items on the list.
What Are Your Rights & Entitlements Under The Law?
Not knowing your rights and entitlements under our state law means that any decision you make with regard to spousal support, custody, or child support, will not be an informed decision. And in a divorce, where the results of your choices can, and often do, impact the rest of your life, it is critical to know what you are legally entitled to have and do in a divorce.
For example, understanding that when it comes to the division of assets, Michigan is an “equitable distribution” state as opposed to a “community property” state. This can have a substantial impact on how you choose to divide your assets and debts during a divorce. Other issues include which assets are marital and which are separate, understanding how your retirement and pension may be affected, or whether the divorce will have any impact on your inheritance. These are all complex questions that only an experienced family law attorney can answer.
Leveling The Legal Playing Field
Representing yourself in your divorce probably sounds like it makes the most sense, right? After all, you know yourself better than anyone. You know what you have, what you want, and what you’re not willing to settle for. In that context, a divorce attorney just sounds like a giant waste of money. But if your spouse has hired a divorce attorney, then representing yourself can be a dangerous and costly endeavour. When two skilled divorce attorneys sit across from each other at the negotiations table, they both have the benefit of years of experience and a full comprehension of the complexities of family law. You, on the other hand, probably don’t. It would be the equivalent of sending an amateur to play tennis against Serena Williams. Only the stakes are much higher.
Your spouse’s attorney is not going to take the time to explain to you the things that you may have filled out incorrectly on your paperwork, or the filing dates that you missed. Michigan law is clear that your spouse’s lawyer has no obligation to you. They aren’t going to provide you with a run down on the procedures for the specific county court you are appearing in, and they’re not going to do you the courtesy of pointing out any errors or ambiguities in the proposed settlement that was written. After all, it’s better for their client if you don’t know what you’re doing. Your mistakes are entirely in their favor.
It’s also important to note that if you represent yourself, you will be held to the same standards as an attorney when it comes to compliance with the Michigan Court Rules, Rules of Evidence, and any local rules that may be applicable. So if your spouse has already hired an attorney, then a DIY divorce is already not a wise option for you and your best move would be to hire your own attorney as well. Preferably, a better one than your spouse’s.
Join us next time, as we wrap up our discussion with more of the possible pitfalls one could encounter during a D-I-Y divorce, and how to avoid them. Because knowledge is power, and the more informed you are, the better your divorce-related decisions are likely to be. Until then, if you need help with your Michigan divorce, our experienced family law attorneys are available round the clock to assist you with your case. Call 866 766 5245 today to discuss your case with an attorney who can make a difference.