Do-It-Yourself Forms

By R. Keith Spencer
Board Certified Family Law Attorney

A number of people try to resolve their family law issues using do-it-yourself forms downloaded from the Internet or obtained from a library. This is an extremely risky proposition that can have tragic and catastrophic results. Mistakes made in court are frequently impossible to correct. Your livelihood, savings, retirement, home and relationship with your children hang in the balance. There is no substitute for counsel from an experienced attorney when the things most dear to you are at risk.

There is no such thing as an “Internet divorce.” Only the state can grant a family law order or divorce and you must go to court to obtain one. Do-it-yourself forms of varying origins and quality are available on the Internet for you to fill out and take to the courthouse. Many of these forms are from different states with different laws than those applicable in your case. Some drafted and sold by non-attorneys contain fatal errors and/or omissions that can cause dire consequences. Even those offered by bar associations are extremely difficult to complete correctly and cannot anticipate the vast array of circumstances that may impact your individual case. A typical divorce decree for a family with children exceeds 50 typed pages and contains legal terms and concepts disguised as conversational English. It is almost impossible for any well educated non-attorney to draft or complete these forms correctly. Worse, the consequences of any errors are frequently impossible to correct.

Sadly, these forms are often used by abusive individuals to cheat their spouses out of family assets, child support, retirement or child custody. Abuse victims are sometimes cowed into signing court documents they neither read nor understand. The forms are all in English, which means many non-English speaking spouses don’t know what they are signing.

Don’t put yourself and all you hold dear at risk by trying to do it yourself. Obtain the assistance of a qualified attorney. If you absolutely can’t afford an attorney, contact a pro bono legal service in your area. At Bailey & Galyen, we offer free initial consultations with experienced attorneys who can assess your case and your individual needs. If necessary, they can direct you to pro bono resources in your area. Don’t sign a document you don’t understand. Schedule a free appointment with a Bailey & Galyen attorney. It may change your life.

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