Want the cheapest uncontested divorce in Illinois? You might be temped to use a divorce document preparation website. But take it from one of the best uncontested divorce lawyers in Illinois – you need to be warned about some of the perils of trusting your Illinois divorce to shady websites with ambiguous ownership. Check out these 5 myths about divorce document websites. And keep in mind, if you want a fast and affordable uncontested divorce in Illinois, you can do that, with lawyer, for a flat fee!

#1: All I have to pay is the price of the documents.

False. Many so-called divorce document websites tell you that your divorce will cost whatever they charge for their documents. For example, I’ve seen banners on such websites that say that the divorce will cost $200. They want you to think that you pay $200, and you’re ready to go to get the divorce finalized.

But that’s not true. What they don’t tell you is that you need to pay court costs. In many counties around Northern Illinois and elsewhere, finally fees for both parties have a combined total of more than $750.

Sure, getting divorced for $200 might sound great. But when you consider court fees, you’re now paying more than $1,000, most likely. And what are you getting for it?

#2: If I get divorced, it’s a success!

False. People often think that just because they got divorced that everything was successful. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Many times, people get divorced and then have problems years after the divorce. For example, I handle dozens of uncontested divorces each year, but I also litigate cases. One former client who contacted me handled her own divorce with documents prepared online by some anonymous type website. They had a major problem dividing their retirement accounts.

She ended up paying me several thousand dollars to litigate something that should have been simple. Instead of using some completely stupid and scammy divorce document website, she should have used a divorce lawyer in the first place. Then she wouldn’t have been having problems with her divorce.

It’s much harder to fix problems after a divorce than it is to handle them before the divorce.

#3: Websites will tell me everything I need to know.

False. Many of the divorce document preparation websites claim to have guarantees. They guarantee that their documents will be accepted by the court.

But what does that mean anyway? 

I have some news for you. It means almost nothing. If you take a document and put the case title on it and the proper header, you could write any nonsense you want on a document and the clerk will be likely to file it in your case. 

What you should be asking is whether or not the document preparation website will produce every document you need. 

Let’s think about this. These divorce document websites claim to produce documents for every state and every county in the country. Did you know states have different divorce laws and different requirements for what is filed for a divorce? Do you know that even within one state, what is required varies by county? Do you know that some judges have different requirements, or are more particular than other judges, even within the same county?

How did these document preparation websites make documents that meet every judges requirements, in every county, in every state?

They don’t. So many of them are outright scams.

Over the years, I’ve had dozens of clients who paid divorce document preparation websites, and then couldn’t finalize their own divorces. They didn’t even have all the documents they need. And then there’s the matter of what the documents actually say.

#4: Document preparation websites produce high quality documents.

False. Document preparation websites produce garbage that you could get at a law library for free.

That’s right. If you don’t want to pay a lawyer, and you want to screw up your divorce, you don’t need to pay some anonymous website to screw it up for you. You can go to the law library, fill out some forms, and hope for the best. At least you won’t be paying someone else $200.

Maybe you hate lawyers. So do I! But lawyers probably know something you don’t, and divorce lawyers can help you draft documents with the appropriate terms to protect you from potential harm in the future. 

When people use a divorce document preparation website, all that website does is essentially take forms and fill in the blanks with what the user types into the website. Does that sound like a great way to produce a legal document?

There’s absolutely no thought that goes into it. Are you going to call the website when something goes wrong? Is the website going to tell you what to say in court if the judge has questions? Is the website going to give you advice about how to best structure your agreement?

Nope. The website is a useless piece of garbage.

#5 We don’t have any property together, so using a divorce website is fine.

False – unless you have a prenup. One of the biggest misconceptions in divorce surrounds the concept of jointly owned property. People think they don’t have anything to divide because spouses have bank accounts titled in their own names, not joint accounts. They might apply the same thing into a house, thinking that a house acquired during the marriage is only one person’s property because it is titled in only one person’s name.

But neither those are true. In an Illinois divorce, with very few exceptions, it doesn’t matter in whose name something is titled. If you acquired it during your marriage, it is marital property, and subject to division in a divorce. Without getting into a long legal discuss, the only real exceptions are as follows: the property was acquired by gift or inheritance, or there was a prenup defining marital property.

Here’s an example that assumes there is no prenup, gift, or inheritance involved. The spouses get married in 2015. After marriage, Spouse A puts his paycheck into Account XYZ, which is titled only in Spouse A’s name. If Spouse A and Spouse B get divorced, the money in Account in XYZ is marital property, and will be divided equitably between Spouse A and Spouse B, despite the fact that the account is titled only in Spouse A’s name.