This article looks at three reasons why divorce kits are dangerous, especially in Pennsylvania.
In recent years, more and more people have chosen to use do-it-yourself divorce kits to help them legally end their marriages. Divorce kits can appear attractive, especially since they promise a divorce quickly and cheaply. However, many people who have used divorce kits soon find out that these products can become more trouble than they are worth. Far from being cheaper and easier than hiring an attorney, a divorce kit can present problems that lead to time-consuming legal and financial headaches. Below are just a few of the reasons why divorce kits are a risky proposition, especially for those divorcing in Pennsylvania.
1. The Other Spouse Gets An Unfair Advantage.
If the other spouse has his or her own attorney, then the spouse who has chosen to represent him or herself will be at a huge disadvantage. As the Huffington Post points out, the other spouse’s attorney will have a much better understanding of how court procedures work, an understanding that somebody without legal training could not be expected to possess. The other spouse’s attorney could potentially help get some evidence excluded from court, for example, which may ultimately lead to the spouse who does not have an attorney receiving a diminished share of the marital estate.
2. There Can Be Danger In Not Knowing.
Even if both spouses choose to pursue an uncontested divorce without legal representation, they both still place their own best interests at risk. Divorce is a legal process and not knowing what the relevant laws are – including what each spouse may or may not be entitled to in terms of property – could be dangerous. Furthermore, as Forbes points out, in many cases, once a divorce agreement is signed, it is often irreversible, meaning any important legal or financial issues that are overlooked by a particular divorce kit could become permanent problems. In some cases, a poorly drafted divorce kit may be legally unenforceable, especially if it violates the rights of one spouse or the best interests of any children the couple may have.
3. Each County Is Different.
The major problem with divorce kits is that they almost always fail to address Pennsylvania’s unique divorce procedures. That is understandable when one knows that these kits are seldom put together by a lawyer and when they are, it is rarely a Pennsylvania lawyer. Divorce laws differ from state to state and few of the divorce kits available take into account family law in Pennsylvania. More importantly, within Pennsylvania, the laws and procedures are different in each of the state’s 67 counties and divorce kits never address these small but important differences. If the proper state and local county rules and procedures for getting a divorce are not followed, not only will the divorce not be granted, but you will receive no help from the clerks at the county office (the prothonotary’s office, to be exact). They are required to inform you that your filing is incorrect, but are not permitted to instruct you on how to fix the problem as that is considered giving you legal advice and they are absolutely forbidden from doing that. Finally, each Pennsylvania county has its own fee bill, which controls the amount you must pay to file the divorce. Accordingly, the amount you pay for the several pieces of paper that you get with the kit does NOT include the court fees. Filings fees are typically in the $200 range. Understand this: When a lawyer advertises that his or her fee is “total” or “complete,” the filing fee must be included in the advertised amount. What does it mean if the lawyer’s fee appears to be close to (or even less than) your local court charges? It means that he or she is going to file your divorce in a county with very low fees, which is perfectly legal if you have an uncontested case.
There are better ways to save time and money with a divorce than relying on a potentially risky divorce kit. By contacting an attorney who has a proven track record of offering cost-effective and efficient divorce options to clients, anybody considering a divorce will have a solution that is both affordable and effective.