Do I Need a Lawyer for My Divorce?
If you are planning to divorce, you might wonder if you can save time or money by handling the divorce legalities yourself. Or, you might be anticipating a simple, quick divorce, so handling the process without a lawyer might seem entirely doable. Many people do handle their own divorces. However, if you have property, debts, children, own a business – or anything else you wish to protect – divorcing without a lawyer can pose a significant risk.
Divorce is a legal process, the outcome of which can affect your life for years into the future. Dealing with the legal complexities of any type of family law situation without the help of an experienced attorney, especially when you’re dealing with divorce, comes with certain risks. Failing to understand the legal process can result in mistakes that are not easy to fix. Choices you make in the present can also have future consequences you may not know to consider.
What is an Uncontested Divorce?
In an uncontested divorce, both spouses must agree about all the matters in the divorce (such as property division, child support, child custody, and spousal support), fill out and sign paperwork, and file for an uncontested divorce. However, even couples who agree about the terms of their divorce could benefit from the guidance of seasoned divorce lawyers — especially when there are children involved, if you have assets, and if your marriage lasted longer than a few years.
What is a Contested Divorce?
When spouses disagree about any of the terms of their divorce, their divorce is considered contested. One spouse must file a petition for divorce and give the other spouse the opportunity to respond. These divorces are either resolved through a settlement agreement or by a judge in a trial.
For couples going through a contested divorce, doing so without a lawyer is difficult. It is a much more complex legal process. A divorce attorney not only helps you preserve your interests in the long run, but they can also help defend your rights and speed up the proceedings.
Deciding What is Best For Your Situation
Whatever your situation, carefully consider all of the issues when deciding how you wish to handle your divorce and what to do about legal representation. Even if you are not sure about hiring an attorney, you can still consult with an attorney to help you learn more about the process and assess what path is in your best interest for your specific situation.
Before you begin your divorce, consider the following benefits to working with a divorce attorney:
- Filing correctly: When you first decide to get a divorce, you need to file the appropriate paperwork. Figuring out how to file, which courtroom to visit, and how to serve your spouse with divorce papers can be stressful, emotionally difficult, and complicated. Your divorce attorney can handle this aspect of the divorce for you and can even help you decide between filing as co-petitioners or as a sole petitioner.
- Responding to your spouse: If you were served divorce papers, how you respond is key. A divorce attorney will help you sort through your options, consider the financial, legal, and personal implications of each, and help you find the best course of action. Trying to do this on your own can lead to serious mistakes that could negatively impact the rest of your divorce.
- Protecting your interests: When you have an attorney in your corner, they are looking out for your best interests, even if you feel confused or overwhelmed. Whether that means defending your rights as a parent, fighting for ownership of the family home, or advocating for adequate spousal support, your attorney can tackle the hard battles on your behalf. A divorce attorney can also make it easier to negotiate with your spouse and help avoid going to court.
- Handling conflict: Even in the most amicable divorces, disagreements are bound to happen. When dealing with issues of spousal support, property division, child custody, or child support, you and your spouse are unlikely to agree on every point. A good divorce attorney will have many ways of dealing with these conflicts based on your unique situation. This can include negotiating in a settlement conference, arranging a mediation, or taking an issue to court. Your attorney can also help you obtain temporary orders that will settle temporary conflicts – such as who lives where, who pays the bills, who gets the children and when – while the divorce process is in progress.
- Experience and knowledge: Divorce attorneys have helped clients through a lot of divorces, in all types of situations. They will be aware of solutions and resources most non-lawyers could not have known. Their experience and understanding of the law allow them to give you a realistic picture of your situation, provide strategies, and then work on your behalf to accomplish your goals.
If you are ready to begin the divorce process, or if you think your spouse may serve you with divorce papers, make sure you know your options. Our skilled divorce attorneys at McKinley Irvin can walk you through the legal process and help you prepare for what’s next.