What if a lawyer tells me the Clerk won't accept my divorce papers?

annoyed lawyer

Sometimes people who have prepared their own divorce papers take them to attorneys for review seeking peace of mind and reassurance that their filing will be successful. Afterall, no one wants their documents rejected, and the rules governing the unauthorized practice of law say that only an attorney has the authority to tell you that your documents are legally sufficient and will be accepted by the Court. That being said, you should bear in mind that divorce attorneys make money by preparing and filing your divorce forms for you. They can't make a living very well if they give potential clients the tools to represent themselves for free, so if you're expecting an attorney to give you the green light on filing the divorce papers you've prepared, you're probably going to be disappointed.

Unlike some areas of the law, like serious felonies and medical malpractice, where you’d be well-advised to heed the old adage about the person who represents himself having a fool for a client, divorces are routinely handled without either side even talking to a lawyer (not including the judge, of course, in states that require a court hearing to complete a divorce). Divorce lawyers have been hit especially hard by the pervasiveness of online legal self-help tools, so contrary to what you might think, if you walk in and triumphantly slap down a stack of divorce documents for review, they’re more likely to be annoyed than impressed. Think of those mugs that say, “Please do not confuse your Google search with my law degree.”

To be fair, it isn’t just economic interest that makes attorneys reluctant to acknowledge that your self-prepared divorce papers will work just fine. Giving the go ahead on outside work also triggers potential issues with professional responsibility and malpractice. It’s difficult for an attorney to know whether your online divorce forms are legally sufficient and accurate without collecting detailed information from you and then going over the documents thoroughly. Their support staff members draft divorce papers for their clients with templates they have used hundreds if not thousands of times, unlike with your paperwork, which will take extra time to review because they can't just assume they're from a trustworthy source.

The bottom line is if you want to file for divorce, going to see a lawyer is never a bad idea. Attorneys can apply your circumstances to the law and give you advice on what you should do next, while online divorce product providers are not able to do either of those things. Just remember that divorce attorneys are competing for business from the website you used to prepare your own divorce papers and it's unlikely any lawyer will recommend that you use them.