Confused about DIY

Legal Zoom & “Do It Yourself” Divorce Mediation

There are good reasons to want to do it yourself:

  1. You don’t want lawyers taking over and making things more contentious or expensive than they need to be.
  2. You can do your own research and figure out which forms you have to fill out.
small google search law degree
Do it yourself: Not recommended!

DIY IS USUALLY A MISTAKE

  • Legal Zoom gives you wrong information
  • Legal Zoom’s online service only helps you through the easy stuff (and overcharges you)
  • Legally binding agreements should only be written by lawyers
Confused about DIY
"I thought you said this would be easier!"

Legal Zoom Gives You Wrong Information

People getting a divorce often want to have a basic understanding of what the law is to help them make their own decisions about how to move forward.  Legal Zoom makes basic errors which only lead to more confusion.

For example, it has a “community property” section even though Florida is not a community property state, but rather a state which uses “equitable distribution” as a basis for dividing marital property.  This is an error that most attorneys would not make, and is no substitute for the knowledge of a legally trained neutral such as a family mediator.

Legal Zoom’s Online Service is Unnecessarily Expensive

They overcharge you by $100 just to file for divorce, and they only collect enough information about you to complete the easiest forms.  You don’t receive any help or explanation of financial documents or the calculations contained within support provisions.

Only Lawyers Should Write Legal Documents

No matter how much you agree, or how clearly you write, agreements written by non-lawyers will probably not have the legal effect you intend it to have.  Certain words and phrases have legal significance you might not anticipate.  Even the words you don’t say can change the meaning of your agreement.

It takes a neutral mediator who is trained and licensed as an attorney to translate the things you want to accomplish into legally recognizable terms and provisions.  And they are the only ones who can do that while helping you understand the law and not giving you legal arguments to use against each other.

So What Should You Do Instead?

Instead of doing it all yourself, you should consult with a family mediator to see if you would benefit from a “Settlement Review”.

A Settlement Review entails:

  • Using a neutral family mediator to explain the law to both of you without taking sides, so you can have a basic understanding of what is going on
  • Drafting a settlement agreement for you which reflects how you plan on resolving the legal issues you have to get through to get a divorce in Florida/reflects your intentions in a legally recognizable way, with the level of detail you need to have for your agreement to be approved by a judge

Or if you have already gotten started on writing the settlement agreement, or used a template to address the broader categories of legal issues, we can review what you came up with to discuss whether its specific enough to be approved by a judge and whether it has the legal effect you want it to have.

And if there are issues you didn’t realize you had to consider, or if there are disagreements about any of the details of how you would like to move forward, we can address those too in a low-conflict, non-adversarial family mediation process, which hopefully can keep the peace now and in the future.

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