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A Shift In Tennessee Lets More Couples File For DIY Divorces, But There Are Catches

The 40-page packet for self-represented divorce can be daunting to some couples.
The 40-page packet for self-represented divorce can be daunting to some couples.

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Divorce can be emotionally hard, but a provision approved just last year is intended to make the process easier. Self-represented divorces are now an option for couples with children, but there are still a few catches.

Self-represented, otherwise known as "pro se" divorce isn’t free. But Zac Oswald, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society, says taking out the cost of lawyers helps reduce the cost significantly.

“You’re talking anywhere from $250 to maybe $1,000 versus, you know, you could pay one to two thousand dollar retainer just to get an attorney on your side, before you start talking about how much it costs to pay them per hour,” Oswald says.

The Legal Aid Society has been offering advice on do-it-yourself divorce. It was already available for couples without children, but last year the option was extended to people with kids. But even so, the stack of forms is 40 pages long and contains language that can be confusing. Oswald says a lot of people try to use them, but aren’t actually eligible.

“You can’t own buildings or land with your spouse, you can’t have retirement benefits,” Oswald says.

That means no 401(k).

Another catch? Couples have to agree to all terms of the divorce, including child custody. And neither of them can be pregnant.

More: Tennessee Supreme Court information on pro se divorce for couples with children

But, Oswald says for couples amicable enough to sit down and agree on how they want to separate, the forms allow for increased flexibility, like negotiating who gets the kids for special occasions. He also says keeping lawyers out of the equation helps reduce tension.

Copyright 2018 WPLN News