Local News

Aug 12, 2013 6:53 PM by Janine Reyes

6 Investigates: DIY Divorce on Craigslist

CORPUS CHRISTI -- Going through a divorce or custody battle can be an expensive and emotional ordeal, but saving a few bucks, could end up costing you grief.

6 investigates a local woman advertising divorce paperwork prep and it turns out, it could be illegal.

We all know there's no shortage of services offered on Craigslist, one in particular caught our eye. It offers divorce paperwork prep for only $65, $95 with children.

Could it really be this simple?

We did some digging and asked the Better Business Bureau to check out the number for us.

"This number is not registered on bbb.org and that to me would be a very untrustworthy person to do your divorce," said Tracy Bracy with the Better Business Bureau.

We also called number in the ad, asking the woman on the other end of the line to talk with us.

She said no, because she didn't want to get herself in trouble.

But, Judge Brent Chesney says using services like this could get you in trouble.

Going to court without an attorney is called going Pro Se and if the other party has an attorney, you may be fighting a difficult battle.

"If the lawyer over here knows how to object properly, which, most lawyers do, then they're going to want to exclude all kinds of evidence and they're not going to let things in and you may not even get your story told in front of a judge if you go up in front of a judge with a lawyer on the other side," Chesney said, "very dangerous to do that."

The problem is when you decide to go Pro Se on a case, the judge's hands are tied. Judges are barred from giving you any legal guidance.

"I can't give advice to the parties, I rule on the evidence I rule on the procedures, but I can't tell you, hey, you're doing this right or wrong," said Chesney.

As for the woman who posted the ad, she wouldn't give us her name. We found other ads for divorce prep work with the same number that say to ask for Jackie.

She told us, she learned how to do paperwork from a man who had a similar business run out of his home.

She told us she has never been divorced, but perhaps she is married. Her number pulled up an ad for a wedding dress for sale on Craiglist, she also posted an ad seeking part time work.

And while its not exactly clear if the ad is illegal.

"There is a law that says non lawyers are not to expense legal advice, and if someone is simply telling you how to fill out a form, is that dispensing legal advice? That would be in the eyes of the beholding judge that hears the case," Chesney said.

One thing is clear: buyer, beware.

The Corpus Christi Bar Association does have a committee to handle Unauthorized Practice of Law.

The Bar tells us this is a problem they've seen in our area lately.

We're are waiting to hear back from the district chair of that committee from our region.

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