Many clients believe that they can handle a divorce with the “do it yourself” kits they buy at office supply stores. But in our experience, many people make five similar mistakes.

1. Not understanding child support

Spouses usually ask us questions like,  “What is child support?  Who pays child support?  Can I receive child support?,  and the most common, “How much child support do I owe?”  In Pennsylvania, as in most states, child support is calculated based on state-mandated guidelines. It is intended to cover only basic food, clothing and shelter for a child. It does not cover a child’s out-of-pocket medical expenses, medical insurance coverage costs, extra-curricular activities, daycare, summer camp, school tuition, tutoring, etc. These are additional child expenses under a separate bucket for which parents need to have a separate agreement on how to share.

2. Belief that the divorce filing process is easy to do on your own.

If you are not familiar with your particular court’s filing requirements, the county court divorce filing process can end up being an endless maze off problems that can hold up a divorce decree for years.  In Delaware County, not only must you comply with state law requirements but you also have to know the their rules.

3. Failing to consider future living expenses after separation or divorce.

When you go through a divorce, one is usually remains stuck in the present.  Sometimes the parties fail to consider what it will cost you to live in two separate households – each with your own set of expenses – after the separation and/or divorce is finalized. Lack of budget planning can have devastating effects on your ability to support yourself and your children after their separation and/or divorce is final, and as you both enter into this next phase of your lives.

4.  Assuming the marital estate is always split 50/50.

This is not the case at all. Just because Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, it does not mean the parties receive equal shares. In  Delaware County,  the court considers distribution on 13 different factors to decide what is the fairest split of the marital estate. This analysis is based on a number of different considerations ultimately designed to ensure that a spouse is adequately compensated from the estate in fair proportion to their financial needs moving forward.

5.Concluding that you don’t need a parenting plan for child custody.

Too often, spouses say that they are so amicable with one another they do not need a parenting plan, and that they will work things out as they arise. Although it sounds good in theory, in reality, however, once the divorce becomes final and a decree is issued, there can be a shift in spouses’ attitudes towards each other in relation to their children. That is why it is critical that a you create a document that deals with custody situations in the event something goes wrong.i

Before filing for a divorce on your own, consider talking to an experienced family attorney .