Risks of a DIY divorce often cost more than the benefits

This article looks at some of the risks of DIY divorce, especially the financial risks of dividing pensions.

Divorce is not easy and chances are it will result in both spouses taking at least a bit of a financial hit. Assets and debts will have to be split, there may be issues surrounding child support or spousal maintenance that will need to be resolved, and one or both spouses may find they suddenly have to support themselves on a single income. These financial pressures lead many people to choose a do-it-yourself divorce. Countless online business promise quick and cheap divorces without the need of an attorney. However, what many of these sites don't highlight is the extreme risks people who are getting divorced undertake if they don't at least consult an attorney before signing off on any divorce settlement.

Financial risks are extreme

A DIY divorce provides some short-term financial savings at extreme long-term financial risk. One aspect of a divorce that can become very expensive without an attorney is dividing retirement accounts. As Reuters points out, many people who opt for a DIY divorce and try to divvy up their pensions on their own inadvertently find themselves paying massive early withdrawal taxes and penalties, which often run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

Unfortunately for such people, these hefty fees could have been avoided by simply talking to an attorney. Pensions can be divided without paying these large taxes and penalties by using what is called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). A QDRO is an extremely important and complex document that an attorney can help divorcing couples file so as to avoid them getting hit with early withdrawal penalties.

Divorce is complicated

The financial risks of a DIY divorce are bad enough, but what can feel even worse is the realization that the divorce process is extremely complicated for those who do not have legal training or experience with the courts. Filing paperwork is nobody's idea of fun, but as Divorce Magazine points out, in any divorce there is bound to be a lot of it. An attorney can take care of the paperwork so that the client who is getting divorced doesn't get overwhelmed.

Furthermore, divorce is very much an emotional decision for those going through it, but in the eyes of the law it is a legal and financial breakup. The anger and disappointment that both spouses are likely to feel during divorce can easily cloud their judgement. An attorney can provide logical and rational advice to clients that is focused less on "getting even" and more on protecting the client's legal and financial best interests.

Getting legal advice

The issues that will need to be resolved in a divorce are simply too important to leave to chance. An experienced family law attorney can assist clients with various aspects of their divorce, from negotiating child support and custody to dividing important assets, such as pensions.