As reported by The Detroit News,
an increasing number of (soon-to-be-ex) spouses in Michigan’s Maycomb,
Oakland and Wayne counties are heading for divorce without an attorney –
and it may not be the wisest route.
tough economic times and the increasing availability of legal
information and forms available on the Internet, more people are taking a
“do-it-yourself” approach to their divorce. And while this is a smart cost-saving approach for some couples, for others it can, ironically, be the beginning on a long and expensive nightmare.
Lack of Knowledge
One of the biggest challenges facing do-it-yourself-ers
is a lack of knowledge concerning the ins and outs of the divorce
process. This problem is worsened by the fact that some information on
the Internet is valid for a specific state or jurisdiction — thereby
making it inapplicable in others. Furthermore, forms available on the
Internet are not officially approved by courts in
result of this, many legal aid offices are clogged with frenzied
individuals clamoring for accurate advice on how to divorce. And many
court dockets are just as clogged due to incomplete paperwork and flawed
procedural understanding – something that is turning judges into tutors
and courtrooms into classrooms.
impact of uninformed (and therefore mistaken-prone) individuals
representing themselves in divorce proceedings can be severe. According
to judges, people are losing out on rights that they’ll never be able to
get back: everything from pensions to real estate to
custody claims. And it’s not just assets and rights that are being
lost; uninformed individuals can get stuck with debts that should otherwise be shared by both spouses.
divorce is attractive for its potential to be cost-effective. And for
some couples, especially those with no contested assets or children,
this could be a smart route. However, many people still require quality
legal advice that is specific to their state and unique to their
possible remedy to this difficult situation is to develop a system where
lawyers represent individuals for a portion of their divorce, which
would keep costs down. Another idea is to create better state-run
websites that offer court-approved forms, tutorials, and other practical
The Ongoing Concern
the quality and consistency of information on websites is a move
applauded by all – if only to make obsolete any websites that dole out
bad or misleading information.
there is growing concern among legal experts that too much information
and not enough legal advice can do more harm, than good.
Weichman of the Family Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan asks:
[Information without advice is] like giving people tremendously powerful
tools that can do as much damage as good. Would it be responsible for
doctors to provide really clear diagrams on how to do home surgery?”