It’s a good question: Can I divorce without a lawyer?
We get asked this question a lot: I am getting divorced, and I think it’s pretty simple. My spouse and I get along pretty well, all things considered. Lawyers can be so expensive – so do I really need one?
The answer to this question, as with most questions in 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 one. (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. But even if you and your spouse can 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 QDRO’s to ensure a change in beneficiaries. Vehicles that share a title will also need to be transferred correctly. And if the estate has several real properties and/or multiple debts, dividing all of this up can be tricky. This is even truer when there is a business involved.
The same theory applies to parties who have children together. If each spouse is great at co-parenting and communicating, there might not be any need for a lawyer to step in and advise you. If you cannot agree on the type of custody or visitation, a lawyer should advocate for your rights.
Sometimes things are easier with older children who can drive themselves back and forth and take care of their own extracurricular activities. However, it is always a good idea to take your agreement to a lawyer who can advise you of anything you and your spouse might have overlooked, or help you look at the long-term repercussions of your agreement. Sometimes, parties only agree on custody issues for the children’s current ages and needs and fail to craft a schedule that can adapt to 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 ensure that your rights are advocated for immediately in the early stages of divorce, which can be the most tumultuous.
Further, the cost of a lawyer should be thought of as an investment into protection for your future financial wellbeing, as well as in the best interest of your children. Finally, hiring a lawyer can provide peace of mind and a rational voice during what can be an incredibly emotional and stressful time of your life. A lawyer will be able to lift the burden of what to file and when, keeping up with deadlines and court hearings, as well as offering you good advice (both legally and practically). This will probably be your first divorce. A divorce lawyer has been through hundreds of divorces. It never hurts to get a second opinion (and an opinion that is knowledgeable and confident) when going through a major life transition like divorce.