The problems I see with the online forms you can buy or download:
1. Outdated Forms
A lot of online divorce forms are outdated or written in a way that doesn’t apply to you - because they are based on laws that were repealed several years ago. This means that papers you paid for do not include the correct language required by the Court in Belleville or Edwardsville. The Judge will tell you they are wrong but cannot tell you how to fix them.
2. No Advice
Online divorce papers are just that – papers – so you don’t get any advice on how to handle the details of your particular case. You won’t get any guidance on who should pay what bills, who should keep which assets or stuff like cars or houses, and more. Without knowing the law, it can be difficult to ensure that both parties are being treated fairly during the proceedings and afterwards. There is also no advice on how to file the paperwork correctly either. And trust me, the e-filing system is complicated.
3. Not Personalized
Online divorce papers cannot take into consideration your personal needs and circumstances when drafting documents for you. Each couple has unique needs during their separation; however, generic forms will not provide personalized solutions tailored specifically for them. If you try to use generic online divorce papers instead of seeking legal advice, you won’t be able to have an attorney review the specifics of your case. This means that the document will not reflect your unique needs or situation. Drawing up a one-size-fits-all document may seem like an easy solution, but it could end up costing you dearly later on down the line. If you choose to use the forms provided by the State of Illinois, you will find that it does not let you tailor your parenting plan specifically for you, for example.
4. Geographically Restricted
Most forms available online are written for courts in Chicago, not Edwardsville or Belleville. This means that even if you manage to find a form that fits with your circumstances, it might still not be accepted by the court. It’s better to seek advice from an attorney familiar with local laws rather than relying on general forms from a website.
5. You Have to Figure Out How to File the Paperwork Correctly.
The e-filing system is complicated. Before the State of Illinois switched to the on-line system to file paperwork, it offered attorneys and legal professionals training sessions. If it was an easy system to figure out, then no one would have needed training sessions. If you file it wrong, the clerk cannot fix it for you - they just reject it and you have to try again.
6. The Forms Do Not Disclose The Filing Fees
There is a filing fee that you will probably have to pay to file your case. The online forms might tell you it is $300 or less. It is not. Its actually over $500 in most counties. Nor do they tell you that you will have to pay an additional amount if you use a credit card. You think you are doing it for $200-300 but in reality, with the filing fees, you will pay nearly as much as you would for me to do them for you.
7. You WILL have to Go to Court
Every case that gets filed in Madison or St. Clair County is assigned to a judge and the judge assigns it a Court date. In Madison County, the Court date is about 6-8 weeks after you file the case. In St. Clair, it is 8-12 weeks after you file your case. If you do not have an attorney then you will wait until that day to be divorced. You may have to go in person or by Zoom. And if the papers are not in the manner that is required by the judge, the judge may reject them and tell you that the need to be corrected. If that happens, your case will be reset.
8. If There is Child Support, You Will Have to Figure Out How to Have that Withheld.
None of the online forms give you any clue how to have child support deducted from the paying parent's paycheck. They do not tell you how to prepare this form, how to send it, or how to set up the accounts through the State Disbursement Unit.
Divorces are complicated. Using online divorce forms is not an effective solution for most people and end up costing only a little less than what it would cost for me to do this all for you. Before opting for the online papers, you might want to ask yourself what your time and effort are worth and if it would be easier to have an attorney do this for you. Seeking professional help from an attorney ensures that you will receive advice tailored specifically to your individual circumstances so that everything can go as smoothly as possible throughout the entire process. An attorney will save you from figuring out the filing system, having documents get rejected, having a judge refuse to sign and, might just save you from trips to the Courthouse. If you hire someone to do your taxes every year, then why are you trusting an impersonal service with something just as important?
If you would rather have a professional who handles divorces do this for you, and save yourself the time and effort of being your own lawyer, reach out. I do 95% of my work online and you will get a considerably better set of documents. My prices are fair and I would love to see if I can help. Call me or reach out online through either my quiz or on my contact form.