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Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article, we discuss the potential pitfalls of using an online service for the dissolution of marriage and answer the following questions:

  • Is getting a divorce online legal?
  • Are there any benefits to online divorce?
  • What could go wrong with an online divorce?
  • What aspects of divorce might be beyond online capabilities?

Is Getting a Divorce Online Legal?

When married couples make the decision to get a divorce one of the biggest concerns shared by both sides is how much the process is going to cost. Often, financial conflict is the root cause of many divorces, so it’s not surprising that some couples would turn to online divorce in an effort to save money. While it is legal to get divorced online there are a number of important considerations couples need to be aware of when going down this path.

Are There Any Benefits to Online Divorce?

Along with a relatively quick and automated process, the primary benefit of online divorce would appear to be the lower upfront cost. However, the keyword to focus on here is “upfront.” If one were to compare the average price tag for an online divorce—which is usually just a flat fee—and the average cost of a standard divorce involving attorneys, an online divorce seems like the obvious choice. But there are many moving parts in divorce and no two divorces are alike. An error made during the legal proceedings or a potential shortfall of the online divorce software can easily erase any savings gained from utilizing an online divorce and end up costing much more in the long run.

What Could Go Wrong With an Online Divorce?

The potential for a mistake via online divorce is going to be compounded by the different variables of a given divorce case. A couple that has been married for a short period of time, has no children, and few shared assets, such as a house or cars, maybe a good fit for an online divorce, but once child custody, alimony, multiple assets, and other elements enter the mix the legal proceedings can be complicated and cumbersome. Some examples of issues that can arise with an online divorce program include:

  • Forgetting or Hiding an Asset. Experienced divorce attorneys will sift through all of a couple’s assets with a fine-tooth comb in order to make sure both parties understand the totality of their marital property. Online divorce is essentially a form, leaving the couple to fill out everything on their own. As one can imagine, if the couple is already on poor terms working together on a document that will split up everything they own could be a recipe for disaster, or worse, one party could inadvertently miss an asset or attempt to hide something in a moment of frustration.
  • The Internet Is Porous. The general anonymity of websites can make them difficult to trust. In order for a divorce to be legally finalized nearly all your personal identification information will need to be entered into the online program. A website will always be more accessible to hackers than an attorney’s physical office. Furthermore, larger websites don’t have to worry about their reputation being tarnished in the same way as the local attorney whose continued business depends heavily on the ability to protect his or her clients.
  • Limited Negotiation. Some online divorce programs offer assistance during the divorce process, but with an added fee and limited depth. It’s important to remember that many of the agreements made during a divorce are final and those that are not can be difficult and costly to modify.

What Aspects of Divorce Might Be Beyond Online Capabilities?

Negotiating child support, alimony, and child custody is often the most complicated and emotional portion of any divorce proceeding. This can be further complicated by the number of children and if any child is special needs. Attempting to work through these issues with the limited flexibility of an online divorce program can be extremely time-consuming and possibly error-prone.

All of this is not to say that an online divorce is a bad option for everyone. And it’s possible to combine an online divorce option with a local attorney in an attempt to exploit the best of both options. There will be many divorces that are prime candidates for online divorce programs, and with the growing ease at which the population handles their online business the number of people getting divorced online will only grow. The most important thing to remember is that a divorce is final. If you’re considering the online divorce option purely to save time and money you may end up doing more harm than good. Discussing your marriage situation with an experienced divorce attorney can be the best first step in deciding which type of divorce is the best for you and your spouse. If you have any questions about divorce or divorce proceedings give us a call at 630-324-6666.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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