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Divorce Dilemma: Do I DIY?

No matter the relationship, divorce takes time and money, and attorney fees can be one of the most significant hits a person can take in the process. This makes a do-it-yourself divorce seem really attractive. After all, the Maryland Courts have instructions and forms that walk couples through every step of the process, so why not take advantage of these free resources? Here are some important considerations when deciding whether or not to hire a divorce attorney or DIY in Maryland.

If It’s Simple, KISS and Divorce

Keep it Simple (Silly) is a good approach when a couple has a relatively uncomplicated situation. If your relationship hits all the following factors, it can be considered uncomplicated:

  • No Children: child custody and support issues can be complicated and come with additional emotional baggage, so if you don’t have children, a whole area of potential problems goes away.
  • No Real Property: If you are renting your home and there is no other real property to be divided, then the question of who gets the house and how to pay the other spouse off is not an issue.
  • Equal Income: Spousal support only arises when one spouse makes a great deal more money than the other spouse. Making relatively equal income means this claim is less likely.
  • Uncomplicated Debt: In a marriage, your spouse’s debts can sometimes be your responsibility, and this gets taken into account in a divorce.
  • Simple Taxes: Unwinding a marriage also involves separating tax obligations. This is less risky if the couple has always filed separately or you are confident there are no other tax concerns.
  • Same Jurisdiction: Separated and living in different states? Military spouse stationed abroad? These relationships create complications regarding where to file and what rights each spouse has.

You don’t need to agree with your spouse about these issues if you are confident that you can establish them to the court. If you are concerned about any of these issues, you may want to confer with counsel about the matter short of hiring them to represent you in the divorce. In addition, each Maryland county has a family law self-help center where you can ask your questions free of charge. For instance, the Montgomery County family law self-help center is in the circuit court and is open on weekdays.

When is a Divorce Lawyer Necessary?

The short answer is the reverse of the factors listed above. Understanding the implications of a complicated marital estate, support and custody, or jurisdiction takes experience. The Maryland courts will be patient with parties who don’t get the forms exactly right the first time, but some issues can slip through the cracks and have long-term consequences. For instance, the division of a retirement account or establishing the right to greater spousal support from an ex in grad school but facing a lucrative career involves recognizing the right and knowing how to present it to the court.

When a relationship has dramatic income or other power disparity (particularly when this has been abused), a lawyer will act as an advocate and minimize your contact with your ex in these situations. On the other hand, if two spouses think they can resolve a complex divorce without needing an expensive public trial to air their laundry (clean or dirty), lawyers can advise and guide the parties through alternative dispute resolution options like mediation and collaborative law. They will also be practiced in steps that can be taken to minimize the public record to maintain privacy. Finally, an experienced family law attorney will have resources and suggestions that go far beyond the ability of a judge to find creative solutions that work for a divorcing couple.

Ultimately, the decision to work with an attorney through the entire divorce process might be reached with the help of a reputable, experienced attorney. The cost of a consultation is far less than full representation and may help weigh the issues as well as establish a relationship that could come in handy if the DIY process goes sideways.

Malech Law is located in downtown Bethesda, Maryland. For more than 25 years, Mr. Malech has provided aggressive and effective representation for his clients in Maryland and the District of Columbia. This year, he was selected as the Best of Bethesda 2022 Readers’ Pick for Best Family Law Practitioner. He has also been given the Lawyers of Distinction Award Recognizing Excellence in the Area of Divorce and Family Law for the past three consecutive years and has just been recognized as a Family Law Top 10 Attorney for 2021 by “Attorney and Practice Magazine.”

Visit Malechlaw.com or call (202) 441-2107.

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