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How do I find the right help for my divorce?

When you Google “divorce”, all sorts of options appear. So how do you decide what sort of help you need, if any? The big thing to decide is how much time you have and how emotionally prepared you are to deal with things. You can certainly download forms from the internet or even the court, but this can be quite time consuming. Plus, most people going through a divorce have enough to deal with. And its not just downloading the forms, but making sure they’re the right ones (each state and even each county has its own little quirks and procedures, so few kits meet all local requirements). And then there’s deciphering the instructions and then completing the forms. And there’s not just the hassle of filling in the information, but knowing what to put. What if you don’t know the person’s full name? Or their vehicle info? Or don’t feel a need to list every table, chair, fork and spoon…does it matter? And what if you have a house but none of the blanks fit – no one wants it but you don’t want to sell it? And what about the mortgage? More so, what if you have children but everything’s amicable and you don’t want to list who has the kids when? Or what if its NOT amicable and you DO want very specific detail about what everyone can and cannot do? Divorce is quite personal, so fill-in-the-blank forms don’t meet most people’s needs. And even if you’re fine with the forms, there’s still the hassle of getting them notarized, making the correct copies, going to the court and parking downtown, serving your spouse, and then just keeping track of what else must go to the court and/or be mailed and when. We receive dozens of calls each day from people who either have a kit and are stuck or supposedly made it through, only to find out after that they did something wrong. And its not because they weren’t smart enough. Its that the legal process can be quite confusing. And isn’t a one-size-fits-all. Not to mention that people going through a divorce are emotional and not always thinking clearly. So do you really want the headache and hassle of a kit?

On the other hand, do you need an attorney? Attorneys are well worth the money when their expertise and advice is needed. But few people need an attorney to handle the entire divorce. At least in Arizona. As we are the only state to allow non-lawyers called “certified legal document preparers” to offer legal assistance. And said may offer the same information as an attorney. ie: explaining the process and what your various options are. The difference is only an attorney can tell you WHICH option to choose. But most people, once armed with the proper information can decide what is best for them. If not, a consultation with an attorney makes sense. But not to have the attorney handle the actual divorce. Obviously if the divorce becomes nasty, yes, an attorney is advised. But with the laws quite clear about what’s fair and most people having little to fight over anyway, nasty divorces are becoming a thing of the past.

So if you don’t want the headache and hassle of a kit and you don’t want to spend money on an attorney, how do you find the right document preparer? As with any service, shop around. Marketing today is funny, with most of us using the internet to find a business. But often the person with the best placement isn’t necessarily the best. It may just mean they’ve spent more time and money on marketing. Not to mention Google is quite random about how it places businesses. And reviews on Google, Yelp, and others don’t necessarily mean anything, as to write a review usually requires a customer to both set up an account and then write the review. And don’t be fooled by splashy or techno trendy websites. As, again, it doesn’t guarantee anything as to legal expertise. Rather, call at least three companies. And see who provides the most information, who offers the most for your money, and more than anything, who you feel most comfortable with. Divorce is quite personal and the impact on your life, both present and future, should not be trivialized. “Cheap” and “quick” are not terms that should be used. Also be leery of companies that won’t tell you upfront exactly what the cost will be. Also, and this should be obvious but unfortunately is not, confirm the company is properly certified and also what their standing is with the Better Business Bureau.

Yes, this may require a bit of time on your part. But who you choose may be one of the most important decisions you make. Ever. As even in the most simple divorce, you really want to make sure your divorce is done right, the first time. And with little headache and hassle to you. For the right price.