4 Myths Explained About "Do It Yourself" Divorce

Mom holds young daughter in her lap as they sit on top of a rock.

A "do it yourself" divorce might be right for some but unfit for others.


Compared to what some may think, litigating your divorce isn't the only way to go about this process. There are actually several ways in which to handle the legal process of a divorce, many of which don't involve various trips to court.

Even if you know a few facts about the divorce process, there's a lot that can be learned by doing a few minutes of online research. During this research, one of the terms that you may quickly come across is "do it yourself" divorce.

A "do it yourself" divorce is one in which you do not have an attorney advising your moves throughout the divorce process. In many cases, all of the paperwork, negotiating, and other important actions are taken only by the divorcing parties themselves with less professional guidance.

While this approach may work for some, myths that surround the process of a "do it yourself" divorce might make it seem like a good fit for more situations than it is in reality. Here are four myths explained about "do it yourself" divorce.

Myth: The paperwork will be easy.

Several websites offer different paperwork to be used in a "do it yourself" divorce. Some of these websites may even provide tips and helpful information about how to complete these forms. While it might seem simple enough, there are many points to take into account when completing your paperwork.

Are you completing the right paperwork for your state? Do you need to fill out these forms with your co-parent, and if so, how will you coordinate that? How will you submit it to the court? And most importantly, if you cannot figure out how to complete some aspect of this paperwork, who will you ask if you're not working with an attorney or other family law professional? Navigating this process can be quite tricky if you're not prepared for it.

Start by researching the divorce laws in the state that your case will take place, and try to get some answers about what's required of you as far as paperwork goes before starting to do it yourself. Some attorneys may even be willing to review your paperwork once you've completed it, so think about checking in with a family law attorney in your area once you think you've finished your paperwork.

Myth: Co-parents who are in such agreement don't need a parenting plan.

No matter how amicable you and your co-parent are, documenting your parenting agreements into a formal plan is important. A parenting plan will hold all of the decisions you've made as far as your parenting schedule, holidays, no-school days, etc. 

Your plan may even cover details other than your schedule such as how you'll handle parenting expenses, emergencies, and even communicating with each other. A written parenting plan will allow you to go back and reference your agreements in one convenient location.

It can also be helpful to have a parenting plan in place if your situation ever comes to be not so friendly. Conflict can get in the way of co-parenting and make it hard to reach agreements, especially when you need to decide on something. Even if you are in a friendly place now, you can't know for certain what may happen down the line. Let your parenting plan be a source of stability for your family as you move forward.

Myth: Doing everything yourself is the only way to keep costs low.

While having a "do it yourself" divorce and making it through without hitting pitfalls is an inexpensive way to move through the process, it's not the only way to keep costs down in a divorce. If you're amicable and in agreement with your co-parent on many issues but would still like some guidance in handling specific issues, you could consider trying mediation or collaborative practice.

In mediation, you'll work with a mediator who acts as a neutral third party that will help you discuss and reach agreements on whatever matters you need to handle. In collaborative practice, you and your co-parent may also work with a mediator, but you'll also be working each with your attorneys who are well versed in the collaborative process.

As a group, you will work through the various matters you need to handle, and in doing so, you'll be able to turn to your legal counsel to answer your questions and offer you legal guidance. In both mediation and collaborative practice, litigation is not the focus. You might not even have to enter the courtroom, as your divorce will be handled within your group sessions. 

Myth: A "do it yourself" divorce will be a less painful process for your family.

No matter how you look at it, a divorce is hard on anyone touched by it. Even if you might be glad about it, as a parent, it's not fair to assume that your divorce will not be difficult for your children. They are going through this process just as much as you are, even if they aren't involved in the paperwork or the negotiation process. For them, this is an incredibly emotional transition, and they need support from both of their parents as you work through this.

Shield your children from divorce disputes. Don't ask them to choose sides or make decisions for themselves throughout this process. You may be in a "do it yourself" divorce process, but your children need stability and for you to make reasonable choices that will impact their lives. Work to formulate a parenting plan that will best fit their needs above all others. 

A "do it yourself" divorce will work for some, but it might not be the best choice for every situation. Consider these myths as you decide how to best handle your divorce in the healthiest way possible for your family, children included.