Divorcing spouses who opt for uncontested “one-day divorces” risk agreeing to settlements that don’t protect their legal rights and interests.

By now, many San Diego residents have heard about San Diego County’s One Day Divorce Program. According to NBC News, this program allows expedited completion of uncontested divorces in which neither spouse has an attorney. To people who are preparing for one-day divorce in California, the convenience and financial savings this program offers may seem appealing. However, people who choose a one-day divorce risk lasting financial consequences that may offset any initial gains.

Streamlined divorces

According to the San Diego County Court website, a couple must meet various criteria to qualify for the One Day Divorce Program. Couples must have filed for divorce at least six months previously, and the divorce must be ready for judgment. Both spouses must represent themselves, and they must agree on every aspect of the divorce judgment, including:

  • Division of marital assets and debts
  • Spousal support obligations
  • Child support payments and parenting plans

If these criteria are met, a family law expert looks over the proposed settlement terms with spouses. After spouses complete the necessary paperwork, they appear in court for the final divorce judgment.

This program was designed to accommodate the many Californians who divorce without legal representation. NBC News states that 72 percent of people who are engaged in family law litigation in the state lack attorneys. One-day divorces provide a simplified process for people who cannot afford representation. Still, people who are forgoing representation for other reasons may want to reconsider their decisions. Although a one-day divorce in California may offer benefits, it can also introduce significant issues.

Potential pitfalls

People who complete divorces without legal representation may not fully understand their rights or their liabilities. These spouses sometimes risk giving up marital property, financial support or time with their children while also risking being held responsible for a debt of their spouse. In California, for instance, most property obtained during marriage is considered community property and subject to equal division between spouses. Many spouses may not reach this same arrangement when independently agreeing to settlement terms.

The losses that spouses face may be sizable, especially if one or both spouses possess significant assets or should beat sole responsibility for a joint debt. The New York Times tells the story of one woman who nearly completed a streamlined divorce without legal representation. An attorney reviewed the woman’s case and found that she would be entitled to part of her husband’s pension if she delayed filing. The woman would have lost her right to this significant asset had she completed the divorce independently. Additionally, we frequently see active duty military personnel failing to recognize the need to divide retirement benefits earned during the marriage.

Spouses considering a one-day divorce in California should understand that some aspects of a divorce settlement cannot be changed retroactively. Spousal support, child support and parenting plans can be modified. However, property division is final, except potentially in cases involving fraud. A spouse’s decision to forgo spousal support is also irreversible. Additionally, even when modifications are permitted, they may require a significant amount of time and effort, along with legal representation.

Navigating a divorce

Given these risks, spouses divorcing in San Diego should strongly consider partnering with an attorney. An attorney can help a spouse work toward a fair settlement that protects the spouse’s rights and interests. Potential clients can meet with us for a $99 Initial, One Hour Consultation, so that a family law attorney can go over their options. Contact us at DivorceAttorneys-SanDiego.com to schedule one. That consultation may establish quickly if a one-day divorce is inappropriate. In the long run, such a settlement should more than offset any time or money that could have been saved in a one-day divorce.