The idea of spending money on an attorney and dealing with the courts is rarely an attractive option in any circumstance, and that is especially true when you are facing the deep emotional and financial insecurity involved with the onset of a separation and pending divorce. Which is why marketers of so-called “online divorce kits” make the promise of a cheap, inexpensive, and fast divorce so appealing – why spend thousands on attorneys fees and go to court when you can spend a few hundred dollars or less to get it over with by just clicking on an internet ad?
It turns out the good reasons for working with an attorney – whether or not you ever plan, want, or need to go to court to resolve your divorce – are legion in comparison to purchasing an online divorce kit.
What the online divorce kits are basically selling you are the court forms necessary to complete your divorce, along with some instructions on how to fill them out and process them. In California at least, that same information can be found on county court websites for free. The instructions you receive with an online kit may be more user-friendly (or may not be) and they may offer some limited customer support, but make no mistake that otherwise-free forms and guidance on how to fill them out is what you are purchasing. If that’s worth the asking price to you, then by all means purchase such a kit, but be wary of expecting much more.
What you are not getting with an online divorce kit is a professional who can assess your situation to determine what your rights and potential obligations under California law are with respect to such issues as:
Division of your community property (figuring out what is and is not your community property is also a hugely significant part of this process)
Child custody and/or visitation, including travel, one spouse’s ability to move away, and conditions to custody/visitation
Your rights or obligations to spousal support in California
Your rights or obligations to child support in California (with the understanding how much custodial time each parent is a critical factor in determining child support)
Any domestic violence and/or restraining order issues
Who will stay in the family residence
Any other issues that may be specific to your situation
Simply put, an online divorce kit will likely not go very far in helping you identify such issues in your specific situation, much less provide you legal advice and strategic guidance in helping you achieve and a fair and positive outcome that works for you and your children.
It is a mistake to think that your only options in a California divorce are either to do-it-yourself with a bundle of overpriced forms you download from the internet or to engage in a no-holds-barred, expensive Marriage Story style litigation in the courts. You and your spouse may well be able to negotiate an agreement on every issue in your divorce without ever having to see the inside of a courtroom, but it is important to know what your rights and obligations are and to obtain guidance as to your specific situation throughout the time between your decision to pursue a divorce until the day you receive your finalized judgment ending your marriage from the court.
Even a single consultation with a skilled family law attorney who is devoted to your interests can help you understand what issues are stake in your divorce, what your reasonable goals and outcomes might be, and how best to pursue them.
Guidance on Your California Divorce Questions From a Westlake Village Family Law Attorney
If you would like to learn more about how our office can provide guidance on any California family law issues you are facing in Ventura County or Los Angeles County, contact the Zonder Family Law Group office today at (805) 777-7740 or (818) 877-0001, or schedule your strategy session using easy-to-use online form here.