DIY, or do it yourself, tutorials and projects have been on the rise in recent years. With online access to more information than ever, it may seem like no task is too big for you to tackle. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all thing. DIY dos can include painting an accent wall, changing a flat tire, building a man-cave or she-shed, or finally, learning to french braid your own hair. What’s right at the top of the list of DIY don’ts? DIY Divorce in Texas.
It might seem to make sense to you to consider handling your divorce on your own. You don’t want to spend any unnecessary money, and you and your partner are splitting on fairly good terms, anyway. There’s no real vitriol, it shouldn’t be too difficult to work things out, right? Besides, you’ve seen ads for ‘DIY divorce kits – they look simple, and so much cheaper than hiring a lawyer.
The Pitfalls of DIY Divorce in Texas
Unfortunately, this type of thinking comes with more than its fair share of potential pitfalls. That isn’t to say your Texas-sized DIY confidence isn’t justified: your arts and crafts projects or baked goods may very well be the best in the state. But, there aren’t any legal ramifications if you add just a little too much glitter, or fail to follow the recipe to the letter.
Not so in divorce proceedings. Divorce kits are supposedly developed by legal experts and marketed as all you’ll need for a smooth and easy divorce, but divorce matters (children issues, property considerations) are much more complicated than they seem. Even a simple clerical error can end up costing you later to fix than if you’d hired an attorney in the first place. Making these kinds of mistakes is not only expensive but can lead to arguments between you and your spouse over who should pay and where to lay the blame, making the ‘good terms’ of your divorce decidedly less so.
Think It Through First
If you are seriously considering a DIY divorce in the state of Texas, there are many factors you should consider first:
- Do you know if you’re entitled to a share of your spouse’s investment accounts? IRAs, 401(k), and pensions can all be divided in divorce courts in Texas. Make sure you’re getting your fair share. If you already know that you do qualify for a share of these assets, ask yourself if you’re knowledgeable enough about the extremely specific requirements relating to your spouse’s plan administrator or employer.
- Are you aware of all the tax ramifications of splitting up your property? Do you know the difference between community and separate assets? If you go about dividing up your property the wrong way, you could be surprised later with an unnecessarily large tax bill, such as a capital gains bill. Also, while different types of property seem straightforward (‘community’ refers to assets acquired during the course of your marriage; ‘separate’ refers to assets you either owned while single, or received as a gift or inheritance during the marriage), things can get much more complicated than that, especially when shared marital funds are involved.
- Are you 100% positive that your spouse isn’t concealing any assets from you? It’s unpleasant to think about, but it’s important to acknowledge all possibilities.
- What will you do if your spouse promises you a sum of money, but doesn’t keep their word? This may not even be malicious; it could be due to an unexpected circumstance such as needing to file for bankruptcy. In a divorce, it’s wise to expect the unexpected.
- Do you know how to properly re-title all of your property in separate names? Are you aware of every beneficiary designation that has to change?
- You may be entitled to a share of your spouse’s stock options. Do you know how to divide them in a legally correct and effective manner?
- Do you know what changes you need to make to your estate plan post-divorce?
- Have you considered the effects of your divorce on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or other benefits?
- If you have children with your spouse, have you taken care of visitation and support? Have you made sure they’ll still be protected if you or your spouse’s circumstance change drastically in the future? Note: while child support in Texas is based on a fairly straightforward formula, it may not cover the cost of your children’s unique needs, such as tutoring or medication.
- Does your divorce agreement deal in detail with the possibility of large future expenses for your children, such as college tuition or even medical issues?
- What will you do if your spouse passes away unexpectedly after agreeing to pay child support?
Exhausted yet? Because the above isn’t even an exhaustive list of potential issues with a DIY divorce. Divorce is stressful enough, and even the simplest separation can lead to immense financial and legal difficulties if not handled properly. Save yourself some money and stress, and hire an experienced family lawyer to handle the headache instead.
Don’t Go It Alone
If you live in Texas and you’ve decided you need more help with your divorce than online tutorials and pre-made divorce packets can give, call Marquis Family Law at (281) 803 – 5850. Set up a meeting with Carrie Marquis and get all the professional, experienced help you need.