It’s a good question: Can I divorce without a lawyer?
We hear this question a lot: I am getting divorced, and I think it’s pretty simple. My spouse and I get along well, all things considered. Lawyers can be so expensive—do I really need one?
The answer to this question, as with most questions about the law, is—it depends.
If you and your spouse are comfortable completing the judicial forms, have a fairly small estate, and agree on how to divide it, you may not need a lawyer.
Tip: Our Divorce Navigator can help you complete and file all of the paperwork in an easy-to-understand way.
If you have not been married very 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 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, dividing all of this up can be tricky. This is even truer when there is a business involved.
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 the type of custody or visitation, 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 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.
Hello Divorce CEO Erin Levine answers: Can I represent myself in my divorce case?
If you and your spouse have anything less than a full agreement on every single issue, it is best to get a lawyer involved, and the sooner the better. While lawyers can be expensive, hiring one early in the process can help you advocate for your rights in the early stages of divorce, when things are often the most tumultuous.
An investment in your future
The cost of a 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 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.