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Rise in do it yourself divorces may lead to poor representation

Divorce is a difficult process for many couples, so it's understandable that couples are sometimes tempted to complete the process as quickly as possible. Some couples attempt to save time and money by representing themselves in their own divorce proceedings. "Do it yourself" divorces are on the rise in Texas, now accounting for nearly 45% of all divorces.

But negotiating a divorce can be a tricky process, and some worry that self-represented couples are unable to protect their rights. "People just don't know what they're entitled to," said one attorney, "I'm sure justice is done in many cases, but I believe in many cases it is not." Divorce can be a tough time emotionally for couples, especially when faced with something as complex and confusing as a divorce settlement. Couples may find it difficult to understand their rights on issues such as spousal support and child support.

In addition, do it yourself divorce puts a strain on a legal system already hit with budget cuts. Though couples often have access to a legal library and low-cost mediation services, most of the help the courts are able to provide is rudimentary. As a rule, court employees are forbidden to offer legal advice.

Volunteer lawyers offer another avenue for legal advice, though couples seeking their help will usually be faced with a wait of several weeks. Other couples may reach an amicable settlement on their own, but these couples will nevertheless enlist the help of a lawyer to draw up the agreement.

Couples may feel that in these difficult economic times, they cannot afford legal representation. Some will undoubtedly find "do it yourself" divorce to be a quick way to navigate the divorce process. When dealing with complex issues like spousal support, child support, and division of assets, however, they may find that hiring an experienced lawyer is indeed the cheaper option.

Sources: The Harold Tribune, "Courts seeing more do-it-yourself divorces," Robert Eckhart, Sept. 9, 2012

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