DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Divorce? Make Sure You Dot Your

If you have decided to start the divorce process, you may find it appealing to represent yourself. Many litigants believe that the process is simple, and they are capable of negotiating the terms of a divorce agreement based on their own expertise in negotiating business deals or other straight forward agreements.

A Do-It-Yourself Divorce could appear to be cost-saving and uncomplicated. In reality, filing for divorce without an attorney can have both short-term and long-term negative consequences which costs can far outweigh any seemingly potential advantages. There are many pitfalls you will not anticipate, such as the failure to address numerous issues. These include the identification and valuing of all assets and liabilities, the issue of life insurance as security for child support payments, the proper designation of legal and residential custodians, the establishing of a specific parenting time plan, the proper preparation of Child Support Guideline Worksheets for calculation of an appropriate child support award, and the correct handling of the distribution of a retirement account and having a Qualified Domestic Relations Order prepared when appropriate. The above list represents just a few of the perils of self-representation, if not fully and correctly addressed.

Even if both parties are able to engage in productive negotiations in an effort to amicably resolve the outstanding issues, retaining an attorney will be beneficial. Your own attorney will assist you with both the procedural and substantive aspects of your matrimonial proceeding.

An experienced matrimonial attorney, who is familiar with New Jersey law, will prepare and file the Complaint for Divorce on your behalf and effectuate service of the Complaint upon the other party. Significant issues such as spousal support, child support, custody and parenting time and equitable distribution of your assets and debts will be discussed with your attorney who can provide you with legal advice and your best-case or worst-case scenario if the issue were to be decided by a Court.

Your attorney will assist you in the discovery process, ensuring there is a complete exchange of relevant financial documents, including income and assets. Your attorney will provide you with ongoing guidance and be your advocate regarding issues that arise from the date of the filing of the Complaint until the entry of the Final Judgment of Divorce, known as the pendente lite phase. These may include temporary support, child support and an interim Parenting Time Agreement. It may be necessary to have your attorney prepare and file a Pendente Lite Motion and orally argue the issues before a judge. 

Your attorney will also assist in the preparation for and representation at an Early Settlement Panel Hearing, preparation of a mediation submission and representation during the mediation process, and preparation of a submission to the Court for an Intensive Settlement Conference and representation at the all-day conference with the Judge to whom your case has been assigned. If necessary, your attorney will engage in trial preparation, including discussions regarding trial strategy, preparation of a trial brief and preparation of questions for direct and cross examination of witnesses, and representation during the trial. 

At Cohn Lifland Pearlman Herrmann and Knopf, LLP, our experienced attorneys possess the necessary skills to advocate on your behalf in the negotiations of the terms to be included in the Marital Settlement Agreement and assist you throughout the entire process in an efficient, practical, cost-effective manner. Don’t do it yourself; do it with the assistance of a seasoned member of our matrimonial team who will apply his or her extensive knowledge of the law to ensure that all issues are analyzed in the specific context of your matter, that your “I”s are dotted and your “T”s are crossed, and that your rights and interests are protected.