The One Day Divorce and Other Self Help Programs

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Friday, June 20, 2014.

Everyone knows divorce can be a long process. San Diego has a new program to help you complete your divorce in 1 day. Is there a problem with court-created ‘do it yourself’ divorces?

A New York Times reporter discovered a big one:

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 part ways. She figured they could save money by avoiding lawyers.

But after the courthouse clerk rejected her filing because the document formatting was incorrect, she had the paperwork reviewed by a lawyer, who informed her that if she waited six more months to file, she would be entitled to a portion of her husband’s pension benefits.

“If I had to do it over, I would hire an attorney immediately,” she said.

Do it yourself divorces only seem to reduce the cost and time of a divorce. However, people overwhelmingly are unaware of what the law entitles them to, and they lose out on tens of thousands of dollars, and the process can end up taking longer than it would otherwise.

“It’s like going to WebMD and deciding to treat yourself,” said Michael Stutman, a family law specialist in New York.

In Florida, a large number of divorcing people go it alone. Typically, people file initial divorce paperwork themselves, but don’t know what to do next, so their file languishes for months. Budget cuts in our state courts have reduced personnel and made the problem worse.

San Diego’s introduction of a one-day divorce program for people who can’t afford or don’t want a lawyer was not intended to protect your rights, the program was designed to solve a court administrative problem by flushing your case as quickly as possible.

Also, the program doesn’t mean a divorce is truly started and completed in a single day – residency and notification requirements have to be met first. You must, for example, already have filed a divorce petition and served your spouse with divorce papers to participate.

Florida does not offer a One-Day Divorce yet, but in Miami-Dade County the court offers a Self Help Program to provide necessary forms for a fee. But the program is designed to reduce delays caused by insufficient filings.

You are strongly cautioned that if you have any assets or may be paying support for a while, that you avoid one-day programs and self-help clinics like the plague.

You can read more about San Diego’s pilot program by clicking this link to NBC San Diego