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Proactive divorce planning does not mean an online kit

A divorce attorney would readily agree that property division can be approached proactively. That is to say, each spouse can prepare an itemization of checking and savings accounts, retirement accounts or other securities, property valuations and more.

Yet those who do not handle marital estate divisions for their profession can make innocent oversights. In today’s story, a sophisticated professional took it upon herself to attempt her divorce filing on her own, with the aid of an online divorce kit. The program walked her through various steps until completion. Armed with the paperwork, the woman attempted to file it with the court clerk. However, the clerk rejected the filing because it had incorrect formatting.

Here the old adage that experience is the best teacher may hold true. The woman, unsure of the exact errors, showed the filing papers to a divorce lawyer. In addition to offering advice for that problem, the lawyer also spotted an additional property division asset: her husband’s pension benefits. The woman learned that she might have a claim to a portion of those benefits if she were to wait an additional six months before filing the initial divorce papers.

In retrospect, the woman realized that it might have been better to consult with a divorce attorney in the first place. However, the convenience and ease of an online alternative remains strong for many couples. In fact, at least one jurisdiction has recently started offering one-day trainings at the local courthouse to individuals who attempt to file for divorce on their own. Apparently, there are too many errors associated with that effort, prompting the court to educate would-be-filers.

However, there’s no telling whether such independent efforts are maximizing the full value of property assets to which individuals may be entitled. Without a divorce attorney, that prospect may seem more like a gamble.

Source: The New York Times, “California Pioneers the Court-Aided One-Day Divorce,” Ann Carrns, June 6, 2014

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