Divorce is an emotional thing. It's also an expensive thing. Online divorce services promise a simple and quick solution to help couples move on quickly and less expensively. Is it worth it to skip the attorneys and court time and opt for an online divorce instead?
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First consider the price tag. In 2010, 872,000 divorces were filed, averaging a cost of $15,000. Even if a couple does not have mutual assets -- a house or cars, for example -- the bill for attorney fees ads up quickly. In these economic times, is it savvy to spend a fraction of the cost to dissolve a marriage online?
“NO, never!” says Nancy Fagan, a divorce mediator and owner of The Divorce Help Clinic in San Diego. She says her company gets calls every week from people who have tried to save money by doing the online route for divorce. “I hear terrible experiences, many which are from people seeking our services to correct the mistakes they made.”
Here's what you need to know before you put a divorce in your online shopping cart.
FIRST, UNDERSTAND THAT A DIVORCE IS ESSENTIALLY A LAWSUIT
This is the main point offered by Jennifer Brandt, a divorce attorney who answers questions on Avvo.com, a company that answers consumer legal questions online.
“Most people would not resolve a civil or criminal matter online,” Brandt points out.
When it comes to most aspects of divorce, like property division which are final, permanent and incapable of being changed in the future, the matter is “too serious to be done online without careful thought, guidance and expertise that an attorney can offer.”
The short-term fee of an attorney may be a lot, but rushing into a decision might be more costly. The average person will not be aware of the finer points of filing, Brandt explains. Even experienced attorneys must keep up on the proper rules for filing and processing a divorce efficiently.
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“These rules vary from state to state and ofentimes from county to county. No online service can produce with 100 percent accuracy the processing of every divorce in countless jurisdictions," she says.
SECOND, GET FAMILIAR WITH THE TERMS OF DIVORCE
“Couples who think they have an “uncontested divorce” should be especially careful,” Ani Mason, a collaborative family lawyer and mediator, warns. “The fact that you and your spouse agree to divorce does not mean that you have an ‘uncontested divorce’”.