California’s Do-It-Yourself Divorce
In an attempt to save money by avoiding lawyers, a real estate broker in Manhattan used a $50 online do-it-yourself divorce kit when she and her husband of more than nine years decided to amicably part ways. When her filing was rejected by the courthouse clerk (because of incorrect formatting) she turned to a divorce lawyer who informed her that if she waited six months to file she would then be entitled to a portion of her husband’s pension benefits. While she ended up paying $10,00 in legal fees, she felt it was completely worth it because she received part of the pension.
The Lure of DIY Divorces
While DIY divorces are alluring, due to the potential for avoiding costly time-consuming proceedings, those who make the attempt might be unaware of what the law entitles them to. Because of that, it can end up taking even longer than it would otherwise.
Maureen F. Hallahan, supervising judge in the family law division at San Diego Superior Court said that, “in California, roughly three-fourths of family law litigants lack lawyers.” Often when people file initial divorce paperwork on their own they don’t know what to do next. As a result, their file languishes for months. When budget cuts in the state courts reduced available personnel the problem got even worse.
California’s One-Day Divorce Program
Some courts in California are now offering one-day divorce programs for people who either can’t afford or don’t want to hire a lawyer. “The reality is, people are going to do it without lawyers, and we had to accommodate that,” said Judge Hallahan. Some requirements, such as residency and notification, have to be met first, so the “one-day” name can be misleading. But the program does allow you to wrap things up in a single day, or even a matter of hours, once the initial criteria is met. “This is designed to help people get through the system,” said Judge Hallahan.
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