Why You Shouldn’t File Your Own Divorce

Can you handle your own divorce? Maybe. Was your marriage short, with no children or assets? Do you have plenty of free time to look up things in a legal library, find out how and where to get the forms you need, and go to court? In this case, you might be able to file for divorce yourself.

But in most circumstances, filing for divorce is messy, complicated, and fraught with emotion. You don’t need the added stress of trying to get all the paperwork right. Here are 10 times you definitely need a divorce attorney to help you file for divorce:

  1. filing for divorceYou have a child under 18
  2. Your marriage lasted longer than a year or two
  3. You’re already arguing about how to split things up
  4. Child, domestic, drug, or alcohol abuse is a factor
  5. You think your spouse is hiding assets from you
  6. You’re in a same-sex marriage
  7. You and your spouse own a business together
  8. One of you is bankrupt, or together you have more than $15,000 in debt
  9. One of you is in the military
  10. Together, your assets total $30,000 or more (house, car, etc.)

DIY Divorce Might Actually Cost You More

People consider DIY divorce to save money, but it can actually cost you more if you make a mistake. Do you want to risk messing up your child’s financial well-being, or your taxes, for the next decade? If your divorce isn’t extremely straightforward, a unhappy couple after fightdivorce lawyer will be an invaluable help. You cannot possibly know every consequence of every action taken in a divorce, but this is what we are trained to think about.

The truth is, there are a lot of forms to fill out, and they’re confusing. This isn’t something simple like buying a car. If you make an error or miscalculate something, it could have unintended financial consequences, whether it’s paying too much to your ex for spousal or child support or not getting your fair share of property. It could even have more serious consequences, like giving you less quality time with your children than you otherwise would have gotten. Whatever your final agreements are, you’ll be legally bound to carry them out — even if you find down the road that they aren’t fair. Have you considered absolutely everything, including who will pay for your two-year-old’s college, and how retirement funds factor in?

Mistakes mean you’ll have to go back to court and invest more time and money in this process. A divorce lawyer will ensure you get it right the first time.

How a Divorce Lawyer Helps

Although this may be your first divorce and everything is new and overwhelming, this is far from our first divorce case. The attorneys at Holtey Law in Portland practice family law exclusively and have handled hundreds of divorce cases over the years. We’re experts at helping our clients through this process. We know the latest developments in divorce law, and we know what to expect from the court system, particularly in the tri-county area. We often work with mediators and other professionals to help our clients resolve their disputes amicably, but we are not afraid to take a case to trial if the situation calls for it.

Let Us Help You

You shouldn’t have to go through one of life’s hardest experiences alone. We want to help you get through your divorce with your dignity and finances intact. Contact us today to get help filing your divorce.

Call 503-224-9878 or email

Help! My Spouse Filed for Divorce and I Don’t Know What To Do!

Did you get served with divorce papers or see your spouse’s divorce notice in the newspaper? Don’t panic. Whether it was something you and your spouse had been discussing or it came as a surprise, seeing those divorce papers can be upsetting and overwhelming. Here’s what you need to know and do next.

Divorce: The Big Picture

First, keep in mind that it does not matter whether you are the petitioner (the person who filed for divorce) or the respondent (the other party) — your title in the case will not affect your legal rights. In other words, your spouse is not in a better position because he or she is the one who filed for divorce. Our clients sometimes have a hard time believing this, but it’s true!

Oregon has “no-fault divorce,” meaning one spouse does not need to prove the other cheated or is otherwise at fault for breaking up the marriage. The reason for your divorce, or “dissolution of marriage” in legalese, will be listed on your spouse’s Petition as due to irreconcilable differences. You will not be seen as in the wrong because your spouse filed for divorce, not you.

Once you are served with divorce papers, the court enjoins you from making any major purchases or other expenditures, canceling or changing the terms of your family insurance (including life, health, auto, or homeowner/rental), or disposing of any property in which your spouse may have an interest. Your finances and other official records and documentation will come under scrutiny, so don’t make any big moves or do anything that might be viewed as suspicious.


Divorce Fees & Timeline

Once you are served divorce papers, you have 30 days to file a response with the court, and this deadline is firm. Contact a divorce lawyer in Portland within the first 10 days, if at all possible. Our consultations are completely confidential.

Depending on your and your spouse’s circumstances, the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage will cover such things as custody of minor children, child support, spousal support, division of debts, and division of property. Your response will simply set out what you agree with and disagree with in your spouse’s Petition–you do not need to get into the nitty gritty details of any of these topics or propose a resolution.  If you neglect to file a response within the 30-day window, your spouse could have his or her demands met on day 31 by filing for a default order and a default judgment against you.  Setting aside a default judgment is not impossible, but it is an avoidable hassle, so it’s best to respond within the 30-day deadline.

In addition to a response, you will have to pay an initial filing fee for your “first appearance” in the case.  As of August 2014, this fee is $273 for all Oregon counties. Check how much your county’s divorce fees are here.  If you feel that you cannot pay this fee, you can request a fee waiver form at the courthouse.

Going to Court

From here, a court date will be set. In the meantime, look out for any hearings on temporary issues or other matters that might occur before the court date–your spouse should have served this paperwork on you as well. Other events that may take place after your response is filed but before the case is resolved might include mediation, involving a custody evaluator, or taking a parenting class.  Each case is very different.

In the event that you and your spouse disagree on who should have custody of your minor children or what each parent’s time with the children should be, courts in many counties will require you to participate in mediation.  This is a free session with a professional mediator to help you and your spouse come to an agreement on these issues. Remember that you do not have to agree with the mediator or your spouse. You will not be penalized if you and your spouse are unable to come to a resolution in mediation.


Finalizing the Divorce

At the end of the case, a judge will sign a document that finalizes everything, including custody and parenting time issues, division of property, division of debt, child or spousal support, insurance, and any other issues in the case.  This document is called a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage. At this point, the judge may also restore your legal name before you got married, if you so desire.

An excellent Portland divorce lawyer, like those at Holtey Law, can help you navigate the confusing and often painful process of dissolving a marriage, both with expert legal insight and sensitivity to your needs. Divorce is almost always difficult, but with knowledgeable legal counsel, the process will go a lot more smoothly.

Have you been served divorce papers and need help? Learn more about Holtey Law’s divorce attorneys and contact us to get started with a consultation.

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Photos: Sharyn Morrow, John Moore