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DivorceDo-It Yourself Divorce: Stay Away

August 20, 2008

Shannon Cavers in The Houston Texas Divorce and Family Law Blog details her observations of a litigant who retained one of the so-called “do-it yourself” divorce services to secure a divorce and then encountered problems.

These services routinely advertise over the internet about how they are the supposed low cost alternatives to a divorce lawyer. Typically, these services prepare the divorce papers so the litigant can appear “pro se” (without legal representation) and file the papers in court as an accommodation.

I have long wondered why these services are not prosecuted for the unauthorized practice of law. Although these services claim to be nothing more than “form preparers,” in reality, they do all of the legal and clerical work in connection with the divorce. In every sense, they function as divorce law firms, though there may be no lawyer on staff. I even wonder if the operators have paralegal training.

My concern is that “clients” or customers of these firms are at risk. Unlike lawyers, who are trained in the law and who’s legal and ethical conduct is regulated by the courts, these services operate without standards or oversight. My guess is that they do not even have liability coverage for when they make mistakes.

There is no substitute for competent legal representation, who is retained to protect your rights and interests. A skilled matrimonial lawyer knows not only the black letter of the law, but its nuances as well.

If you opt do-it-yourself, but require help, the courts have “pro se” offices to assist unrepresented litigants, the divorce forms and instructions are online and many of the local Bar Associations offer clinics. Avail yourself of this help.

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