Unquestionably, we live in an age of consumer empowerment and do-it-yourself possibilities. Many people take advantage of online platforms to do their own financial planning. Some execute wills. Others file taxes.
And some seek to wade their way through the legal hoops and hurdles relevant to getting a divorce in their state of residence without input from a proven family law attorney.
Is that wise?
Well, some splitting couples are resolute about having a so-called DIY (do-it-yourself) dissolution. And, as a recent Reuters article on such divorces notes, it is possible in some instances to end a marriage “without significant legal involvement.”
The relevant disclaimer in the above sentence prominently fixes on that word “some,” given that divorce spells a unique process and outcome for every divorcing couple in Arkansas and elsewhere.
The aforementioned Reuters piece conjures up the time-honored adage “penny wise, pound foolish” in its assessment of DIY divorce. It stresses that many couples trying to save a few bucks by forgoing experienced legal help often spend many thousands more owing to the mistakes they make regarding complex matters.
And that is often especially true where retirement assets are concerned.
One divorce analyst relates the tale of a 401(k) account holder who withdrew $250,000 from retirement savings and gave it to his soon-to-be ex in a divorce settlement.
The result: a levied IRS assessment of $110,000 in taxes and penalties for improperly withdrawing the funds.
Had the account holder worked with a seasoned family law attorney having solid experience working with QDROs (qualified domestic relations orders), the latter could have drafted an agreement that resulted in the transfer of funds with no penalties or fees tacked on at all.
And the cost for retaining that professional help would have obviously spelled but a mere fraction of what was claimed by the government as a result of the withdrawer’s mistake.
In the do-it-yourself age, says one professional who frequently spots material financial errors being made by divorcing couples, “we spend more time cleaning up mistakes.”
It doesn’t have to be that way. Working with a proven divorce attorney who regularly advises clients on asset distribution matters can help improve the bottom line for many individuals who are otherwise contemplating DIY divorces.