The Dilemma of DIY Divorce
Every once in a while, something on your newsfeed crosses over to something you are watching online, and you have an epiphany. This happened to me over the past week. It started when many of my colleagues shared an article from the Daily Mail (hardly an example of journalistic excellence, I know) about the ‘unprecedented’ rise in divorce filings in the U.S. since the onset of the pandemic.
I found the level of detail almost astounding beyond the ‘36% Rise in US Divorces’ headline. Quick examples: “28 percent of couples own a vehicle together, and 23 percent own a marital home; 17 percent of couples have a joint bank account . . . One partner is required to pay spousal support in 12 percent of divorces with an average spousal support request at $1,128 per month” and more before it broke down divorce rates by state and region, years married, etc.
All the data was from a ‘Do-it-yourself on-line law service.’ Which made sense at the time and I did not give it a second thought (which, in retrospect, it very much deserved) even while I commented on the post.
Then, I watched Netflix’s The Social Dilemma and heard over and over again riffs on this theme: “Everything you’re doing online is being watched, is being tracked; every single action you take is carefully monitored and recorded.” That message, incidentally, is being given by the very people who build Google and social media sites.
As I watched The Social Dilemma, I remembered the Daily Mail article and the series of charts and graphs powered by precise data and that’s when the epiphany hit: DIY legal sites are certainly no exception anything else online. Use them and be tracked.
The Problem With DIY Divorce Sites
I need to make this clear: there are circumstances that allow for a couple to ‘do their own divorce.’ I have no issue telling a potential client that and referring them to the North Carolina Courts’ website for the ‘How To’ brochures, extensive library of forms, and procedure outlines.
They are free to download and print. Fill out the forms, follow directions for service and procedure and move on. The only risks involved are anti-virus programs or PDF software fail.
Here’s what I found when I went online to several DIY legal sites and started a divorce action: clean, intuitive interfaces, easy to fill out, and . . . incredibly invasive.
Full bank account numbers; birth dates; detailed asset descriptions; income; debts and so much more. Some of those details are necessary before a judge can ultimately grant a divorce but the difference between providing them to your attorney or the Court is a world apart from ‘submitting it online.” By the way – we, the attorneys, do not include full social security or account numbers on our filings with the Court.
Take a fresh look at the Daily Mail article and it is obvious that, at the very least, DIY sites compile, analyze, and release the data they amass through their online forms. At the least.
This should concern anyone thinking of using them. These sites collect more information than you would ordinarily share with your lawyer or via the court documents you submit on the way to a divorce and the sites and services are not ethically charged with protecting client confidentiality as are law firms.
By all means, do your divorce on your own if circumstances warrant. A quick consultation with an attorney can confirm that. Then you go ahead via the North Carolina Court websites and printed materials. You can do that without putting your life out on the web.
For more information about North Carolina Divorces, check out the latest on our blog: