Divorce, like marriage, is a legally binding contract between two consenting parties. When that party is over, a new contract is required to replace the old one. When you said, “I do,” what you were entering into, other than a state of nuptial bliss, was a tangled web of more than 1,100 federally recognized rights and responsibilities. Depending on where you once called home, other dis-assembly may be required. Are you really prepared to navigate the maze of legalities needed to say, “I do not?”
“Do-it-yourself” divorces, even without children or property, come with almost as many risks as marriage itself. Ask a few attorneys who have been through a divorce if they represented themselves. You’re unlikely to find one. Should the need ever arise to defend your own legal legwork; ignorance of the law or that money-back guarantee from “Forms-R-Us” won’t do much to help your case. Depending on the divorce agreement, jurisdiction, and the laws governing the dispute, you might very well get to do the whole thing over again.
Circumstances have a way of changing. Divorce does that to people. Today’s amicable agreement can easily unravel tomorrow. Failure to disclose financial assets, variations in income and the changing needs of children can land you back in court. Unless the proper waivers were executed and filed, the agreement you thought you made may not be worth the price you paid or the money you thought you would have saved.
Arguing over original intent should be left to Constitutional theorists, most of whom are attorneys. It simply doesn’t matter what you intended if the agreement was not valid. Judges, like everyone else, are bound by laws. When a matter comes before any court, jurisdiction and the validity of the claim are reliant upon the contract and its supporting documents. Being thrown out on a technicality may be no big deal in a basketball game, but it can cost tens of thousands if you find yourself back in court on less than firm legal footing.
Most of us wouldn’t think of ordering a do-it-yourself kit to build a happy, livable home. We would hire someone who knows what they are doing. Getting a divorce is akin to dismantling that once-loving house piece by piece. If you want it done right, use an expert, not a one-size-fits-all wrecking ball. Starting over is not easy, but re-living the past is not either.