Call it divorce 101.
Legal Services of New Jersey has updated its self-help guide to divorce in New Jersey. By doing-it-yourself in just 101 steps, you too can represent yourself in divorce.
Just heed the warning: There is an old saying in the law business, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.”
Perhaps this question puts it into perspective: Would you hire a divorce lawyer who has never actually handled a divorce? Even if she went to law school and graduated with honors at the top of her class?
We wouldn’t either.
Self-help topics in this latest publication include child support/alimony, division of property, dealing with debts, child custody, time requirements and deadlines, no-fault and fault-based divorce, special considerations, filing complaints, preparing summons, sending documents to the sheriff, court appearances, default judgments, mediation of custody and parenting time, court hearings and trials, contested divorce, and issues after final judgment.
Just reading the table of contents is enough to make you pick up the phone and call someone who knows what they are doing.
It’s no secret these DIY legal services firms make money convincing people they don’t need legal help. A Google search for “New Jersey Divorce” reveals blaring headlines like “$139 – Complete paperwork in 30 minutes.”
To avoid being promptly sued out of business, most of these services also include a bold disclaimer advising users to seek the qualified legal help of an experienced divorce lawyer.
Finding Affordable Divorce Help in New Jersey
Most people would not attempt diagnosing and treating themselves if they were ill. They would also not attempt complex car repairs or home improvements. So why would anyone think printing a 101-point checklist off the Internet qualifies them to represent themselves at one of the most important court appearances of their life?
Our Middlesex County divorce lawyers know money is always a concern when it comes to divorce. We deal with these challenges every day and can work with you on a good-faith, affordable way to secure qualified legal help. We also invite you to read our New Jersey Family Law Blog, where we have published many articles to help clients prepare for and navigate the choppy waters of divorce.
So let us be clear: Doing it yourself is not a viable option, as the disclaimers on these sites point out.
Pitfalls of DIY Divorce
Despite its 101-points, this latest DIY manual barely scratches the surface. For example, it mentions nothing about changing tax treatment of alimony the Internal Revenue Service implemented in 2019 (though we have written about it extensively on our blog). A spouse who pays $100,000 in alimony faces an increased tax bill of at least $30,000 compared to the old law (which made paid alimony tax deductible but now treats it as taxable income).
And that is just one issue. So, how much does it really “cost” to seek qualified legal help?
To further reduce the liability associated with profiting by offering DIY legal services, the target audience of these sites is typically stated as being those who cannot afford an attorney.
In this latest publication, the prominent, though less-than-helpful disclaimer, reminds readers: “Only a lawyer can give you specific advice about your case and help you protect all of your rights. Always talk to a lawyer, if you can, before taking legal action.”
Under most circumstances, the publication says legal help is “strongly recommended” in most circumstances, including divorces with a history of abuse, divorces involving disagreements about child custody, divorces with significant assets, divorces in which one party is seeking child support, divorce involving members of the military, and divorces involving public assistance benefits, including food stamps, Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income.
An experienced New Jersey divorce lawyer will, in all likelihood, make your disunion less stressful, take emotion out of negotiating with a spouse, help assure that your new life begins on a solid foundation, be available to uphold your rights should non-compliance or other issues arise after final judgment, and, in all likelihood, save you money in the long run.
If you are considering divorce in 2019, do yourself a favor and reach out for qualified legal advice before attempting to go it alone. You may well be surprised by the accessibility and affordability of an experienced family law firm.
Call Rozin|Golinder Law today for a free and confidential consultation.