Why DIY Divorce Documents are Rejected by the Court

Uncontested Divorce Mediation

Posted January 20, 2021

Filing for divorce is something that many want to streamline. If your conflicts aren’t serious and you agree on most terms with your spouse, then it should be easy to simply DIY an uncontested divorce agreement for the court. There are dozens of books and guides and online sources of paperwork to fill out. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds. The reason most people hire at least one lawyer to oversee the divorce is because any number of minor mistakes or misunderstandings of the system can result in your divorce agreement being rejected by the court.

DIY divorces are conducted by individuals or separating spouses that want a quick and affordable process. You may even have some experience with the court and legal documents. However, few beginners fully understand the order of operations or how to prepare the documents exactly so the court will accept them. Much less prepare accepted documents that then provide well-balanced divorce policies in the years to come.

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If you have already filed a DIY divorce or are thinking about doing so, we’re about to share a quick run-down of the most common reasons why hand-drawn divorces are often rejected by the court once filed. Take these reasons and use them to improve on your current divorce document or as inspiration to seek out a professional to look over your agreement before filing.

1) Inconsistent Data

The number one killer of DIY divorce documents is inconsistency. You may check a box requesting no spousal support, then write in a number for spousal support on another page. You may write the marital address on one page, then forget and write the new separated home addresses on another. A single typo or mis-written form section can disqualify the entire filing. This is one of the reasons even brief legal service is useful – to make use of a trained and detail-oriented eye on your paperwork.

2) Unconscionability

The second most common reason is “Unconscionable” divorce agreements. What this means is that the terms offend the conscience of the court without giving good reason. An example might be a split in marital property that leaves one spouse wealthy and the other destitute. Another unconscionable agreement might deny one spouse access to their children without cause. 

In many cases, the agreement was not meant to be unconscionable but for miscalculated numbers or amateurely written divorce terms. With a few slight alterations, most agreeable DIY divorces can be remedies of unconsionability.

3) Missing “Optional” Forms

Several of a divorce’s standard forms are labeled “optional”, but it doesn’t mean you can automatically skip them. Optional pages mean that there are known exceptions. But it’s best not to assume that your divorce is automatically granted any of these exceptions. If there are optional forms in your paperwork packet, determine whether you are exempt or would need to apply for an exemption to skip them.

A divorce missing expected ‘optional’ pages will be rejected by the court.

4) Incorrect or Unpaid Fee

Filing for divorce and responding to a divorce filing both require a fee to be submitted with the paperwork. If your processing fee is not paid at the right time, then your divorce may be rejected from being processed. The same is true if you include the wrong amount of fee with your document, either too much or too little. This creates an inconsistency in the system and your divorce will most likely be rejected until submitted again.

5) Selecting Options without Prerequisites

There are many check-boxes and potential options in your divorce paperwork. However, you may not have what is required to take these options. Assessments, additional documents, and even court-filed motions may be necessary to enact everything that is listed on boilerplate divorce papers. However, your divorce guides may fail to mention what is necessary to take these options. A divorce professional like a lawyer or mediator could walk through these options with you to rule out unnecessary complications or guide you through the prerequisites for the options your divorce requires.

6) Child Custody Issues

Child custody agreements are almost never boilerplate and the court is hesitant to provide quick divorce processing when there are children involved. Child custody agreements written up DIY are likely to be deemed unconscionable or otherwise unreasonable – especially if there are uneven custody rights between parents. The court may also insist on greater details on your plans to co-parent and raise the children before approving a divorce that determines your children’s futures.

7) Court Fee Waiver

If you would like to waive court fees, you will need to attend a fee waiver hearing. This requires an in-person appearance in the courtroom before your fees can be waived. If you do not attend the hearing, your fees can’t be waived and those fees are necessary to file for divorce.

8) Unusual and Unexplained Terms

One red flag for courts looking over divorce agreements is unusual terms that are unexplained. Unusual circumstances are common in marriages – every family is unique. There may well be interesting circumstances that allow -for example – a non-earning spouse to pay support for an earning spouse, or for child custody to be heavily one-sided. But the court doesn’t know if this is an unconscionable divorce or a reasonable agreement given the situation.

You may need to write out an explanation for unusual terms so that the court understands and can approve. Any terms that stray from the norm or an even-handed fairness is better explained than left unexplained if you want the divorce to process.

9) Lack of Parenting Plan

In Illinois, any divorce involving minor children requires both parents to submit a parenting plan. If you can’t agree, both submit their own proposed parenting plan and an agreement is reached. This ensures that parents don’t divorce without considering the needs and future of children between them.  The parenting plan will need to describe and allocate parental responsibilities as well as designate parenting time for each parent with their children.

Submitting a divorce agreement with custody terms but no parenting plan is a sure way to get your documents rejected.

10) Filing in the Wrong County or Division

Last but not least, be aware of your courthouse. Filing for divorce happens in stages, and you need to use the same courthouse determined by your county and division. Make extra certain that both you and your ex are filing with the same courthouse.

Divorce Mediation is the Upgrade to DIY Divorcing

Are you considering a DIY divorce or facing that initial court rejection? We can help. Denver divorce mediation is the next most logical step for spouses planning a quick and affordable divorce. A divorce mediator is one solo divorce professional who will work with both spouses to draw up the best divorce terms. Of course, finding terms may not be your issue. A mediator can also do everything a divorce attorney would do in terms of drafting, filing, and auditing your divorce agreement until it is satisfactory for you and acceptable to the court.

Contact Split Simple today to consult on your divorce, whether you’re just getting started or have a half-finished DIY ready to fine-tune.

Split Simple

1624 Market Street #202
Denver, CO 80202