DIY Divorce: It’s Not Always The Money Saving Option You’d Hoped For!

We live in a society that champions the DIY approach for just about everything. You only have to spend five minutes on Pinterest to find recipes for everything from homemade laundry detergent and sunblock, to instructions on how to build your own dining room table and weave your own hammock. While this wonderful variety of do-it-yourself crafts and projects probably saves a lot of people tons of money, there are some things best left to the professionals. Things like surgeries, electrical power line repairs, and divorces.

3 Scrabble tiles spelling out "DIY" surrounded by a pencil and paperclips and a wax stamp.

DIY Divorces are usually touted as being easy, affordable, and fast, much like a drive-through hamburger. But when you stop and think about the incredible legal complexities involved in a divorce, and the high price you would have to pay if something were seriously mishandled during the process, it really isn’t worth it. Unlike the average drive-through restaurant hamburger, a mismanaged divorce can negatively affect the rest of your life (and your children’s lives) in all kinds of ways.

Custody and parenting time decisions are critical during a divorce!

For example, if you have children, the issues of child custody, visitation (called parenting time in Michigan) and child support can be very contentious issues for a couple to sort through on their own. Couples who are on good enough terms with each other to make decisions based on what they believe is best for their children, are usually able to sort this out without the assistance of an attorney. But lets be honest here, very few divorcing couples are able to agree on what ‘best’ usually entails. Not without a fight, anyway.

We handled a divorce recently where this was very much in evidence. The couple had started out in agreement about what they believed was best regarding custody and child support, awarding the majority of the custody to the mother because her work schedule was less demanding than the father’s. They agreed that she would have more time to devote to the children, so she got full custody, while the father was awarded parenting time. They also agreed on what the child support payments needed to be. Because they were able to agree, without arguing, on how to handle this, they decided to save some money and go the DIY divorce route.

It can sound like a great way to save some money at first…

However, after a night out with friends, the father had a change of heart. His friends pointed out to him that he was getting the short end of the proverbial stick in this deal, and that he would be paying more money but getting less time with his kids. His friends convinced him that he was “being taken to the cleaners” by his soon-to-be-ex with regards to the agreement they’d made about child support, and that he would hardly ever get to “be a dad.” 

Long story short: they argued, she took the kids and left, he got mad and called the cops, claiming she’d ‘kidnapped’ their children. The entire situation quickly spun out of control, and because neither of them had any legal counsel, they ended up in a terrible situation where the cops were involved, and accusations were made that had a detrimental effect on how their divorce was handled. It was a huge mess in the end.

Make sure you’re in good legal hands from the start!

The point we’re trying to make here is that divorce is a process that usually involves a lot of hurt, anger, pain and resentment. (After all, happy couples rarely get divorced.) In any scenario where there are raw feelings so close to the surface, people’s behaviors can be unpredictable. People struggling with emotional pain and anger are not always at their most rational, and tend to make impulsive choices whose consequences they didn’t think through. As you can imagine, that can lead to some very unfortunate circumstances.

So if you’re considering divorce, we strongly recommend that you seek out an experienced family law attorney to walk you through the process. Someone who can guide you through the full range of your options, and explain to you every aspect of every choice you will be faced with. It may seem like an unnecessary financial investment up front, but in the end it’ll be worth it. If nothing else, for the peace of mind you’ll have, knowing all the Ts were properly crossed, and Is were legally dotted, and you’ve got nothing to worry about down the road.