Do I Need an Attorney for My Divorce?
"Can I get divorced without a lawyer?"
We hear this question a lot. Someone is getting divorced, they get along pretty well with their soon-to-be-ex, and lawyers are so expensive. Do they really need a lawyer? The answer to this question, as with most questions about the law, is that it depends. (But the answer is, in a lot of cases, no!)
If you and your spouse are comfortable completing the judicial forms and agree on how to divide your property and share custody – or at least know you want to get to a fair agreement – you may not need a lawyer. Even if you aren't in total agreement or need help with division of assets, working with a mediator or divorce finance expert may be more productive that working with a lawyer.
If you have not been married long and acquired only personal property – or perhaps even entered into a prenuptial agreement that remains uncontested – a lawyer might not be necessary. That said, even if you and your spouse agree on how to divide your property, you may still need a mediator or lawyer for drafting purposes.
Assets like pensions and retirement can require complex documents (like a QDRO) to change beneficiaries. Vehicles that share a title must be transferred correctly. And if the estate has several real properties or multiple debts, or if there is a business involved, dividing all of this up can be tricky.
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Co parenting children
If each spouse is great at co-parenting and communicating, there may be no need for a lawyer to step in and advise you. However, if you cannot agree on custody or visitation issues, a lawyer should advocate for your rights. Sometimes it's easier with older children who can drive themselves back and forth and take care of their extracurricular activities. But it's still a good idea to take your agreement to a lawyer who can advise you of anything you and your spouse may have overlooked.
A mediator or divorce lawyer can also help you visualize any long-term repercussions of your agreement. For example, parties might agree on custody issues for the children at their current ages but fail to craft a schedule that adapts to the kids' changing needs over time.
If you and your spouse have anything less than a full agreement on every issue, it is best to get a mediator involved, and the sooner the better.
An investment in your future
The cost of a mediator or lawyer can be thought of as an investment in the protection of your future financial well-being and the best interest of your children. What's more, it can provide peace of mind and a rational voice during an incredibly emotional and stressful time in your life. A lawyer can lift the burden of timely filing and help you keep up with deadlines and court hearings. They can offer advice, both legal and practical. Remember: This is probably your first divorce, but a divorce mediator or lawyer has been through hundreds of divorces. It never hurts to get a second opinion – a knowledgeable, experienced opinion – when going through a major life transition like divorce.