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April 10, 2019

Why a DIY Divorce May Not Be a Good Idea


You have seen enough movies and TV shows to know you do not want your divorce to wind up in a courtroom. Those divorces get messy and expensive. Plus, you and your soon-to-be ex are on relatively good terms, so really do not need to get any lawyers involved. Also, you have a friend who used one of those online divorce websites, and it worked out just fine.

Though a DIY divorce seems attractive, some issues may come up when you try to do it all on your own.

Be Aware the Online Divorce

Online divorces tout cheap price tags and quick and easy filing. While that sounds great, online divorce websites are generally not state specific. That can be a major problem because most states have different rules regarding property division and child support. If you use generic online forms, you may wind up getting less assets or support than you deserve.

You Agreed to Split Everything

You and your former spouse are not fighting about dividing your property and belongings. You agreed to split everything equally. What you may not know is Illinois is an equitable distribution state, and equitable does not necessarily mean half and half. All marital property is divided how is deemed fair. The court looks at factors like your contribution to the income, occupation, your ability to get a job, health and the length of the marriage. A stay-at-home may not have contributed as much financially, but her contribution to the support of the household is also considered in equitable distribution.

The Account Is in His Name, so He Keeps It

Another misconception you and your ex may have about marital property is anything in one of your names is solely owned by that person. Property owned before the marriage is generally owned outright. Also gifts or inheritances acquired during the marriage are not subject to equitable distribution. However, just because your name is one something does not mean it is only your property. If you or your spouse contributed to a retirement account during the marriage, this is considered marital property. A retirement account can have a significant amount of money, so do not shortchange yourself by not taking what is fair.

We Can Figure out Child Support on Our Own

The Illinois system for determining child support is less complex than other states. That does not mean figuring out the correct amount is easy. You start by calculating the non-custodial parent’s net income. This includes income like wages and investment income, and then you subtract allowed deductions like taxes, health insurance and retirement contributions. Then, depending on how many children you have, you take a percentage of the net income number.

However, figuring out net income correctly can be difficult. There are also certain situations where you might need to deviate from this formula to adjust for a child’s needs. Knowing how to make these adjustments is tough, and if you do not calculate correctly, it could leave you stretching to support your children.

The biggest problem with a DIY divorce is you and your spouse are not legal experts. You probably do not understand all the facets of property division, or exactly how child support should be determined for your children.

Though there is nothing wrong with wanting to avoid a drawn out legal battle, you can speak to an attorney without having to enter a courtroom. An attorney can offer legal advice to make sure you are making the right decisions and protecting your interests.


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Judith Trentman Wilson, Attorney at Law, P.C. , The Villages, FL

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