It’s easier than ever to handle divorce on your own. In a few short steps, you can download all the necessary forms, pay the appropriate fees, file what you need to file, and dissolve your marriage. That’s all well and good in simple, straightforward cases where you and your spouse agree on things. But what if that’s not the situation? If things get complicated, what then? What if your spouse hires a divorce lawyer? Should you hire one, too?
The short answer is yes, if your spouse hires a divorce lawyer, you should probably also hire one.
Divorce often becomes complicated in short order, even if it appears simple on the surface. In general, in all but the most basic cases, it’s in your best interest to have an experienced attorney on your side. They can guide you through the process, show you the ins and outs, and make sure you handle everything correctly. You don’t want to miss something significant when it comes to the division of property or child custody and put yourself in a bad position. And you don’t want to make a mistake that costs you big in the long run.
This is especially true if your soon-to-be-ex hires a divorce lawyer. Even if you go to great lengths to educate yourself about laws and prepare, an attorney has been through this before. If your spouse has representation and you don’t, it’s a little like a recreational league softball player getting into the batter’s box and facing down the Padres’ starting rotation. Even if you have some skills and knowledge of the game, your opponent will most likely smoke you.
Benefits Of Representing Yourself
The biggest positive to representing yourself in divorce is obviously the money. Law school is long and expensive, and divorce lawyers aren’t known for being super cheap. Utilizing online guides or kits, it’s possible to do things for little more than filing fees and a handful of other costs. Potentially saving thousands of dollars is an attractive option, which is why this strategy has become so popular.
Unless you have legal experience, however, representing yourself is a dicey proposition. This works best in relatively straightforward cases. If you and your spouse can act amicably and work together, there’s no reason why you can’t handle things without a divorce lawyer.
The easier, more straightforward your case, the better. Self-representation works best in uncontested divorces, short marriages, and situations without any children and little or no shared property.
It is possible to handle everything yourself even in more complex divorces. You can tackle the division of property and even child custody on your own. But the more there is to deal with, the trickier things become, and the more potential hazards you face. In these circumstances, hiring a divorce lawyer is likely your best option, especially if your spouse already has legal representation.
Drawbacks Of Representing Yourself
While handling a divorce yourself does have certain upsides, it also comes with drawbacks and risks. Saving money is fantastic, but the situation can take a nosedive in the blink of an eye. Collaborating with your spouse for a common goal may be workable in your case, but it simply isn’t feasible in many others.
If you can’t play nice and have to deal with conflict, divorce often becomes twisted and heated. Every step of the process has potential complications that may arise, and splitting up property, deciding on child custody and visitation, figuring out support, and more get tricky even in the best of times. Even something as basic as making sure you fill out and file the forms correctly can come back to bite you.
Should You Hire A Divorce Lawyer?
Whether or not to represent yourself is a big decision, one that has deep and lasting ramifications. Before you make a final choice, there are many questions to consider. Do you have children, substantial assets to divide, and other complicating factors? Are you or your spouse highly emotional or acting irrationally? Is there a great deal of conflict that makes communication difficult or even impossible? Do you understand the process? This includes everything from the forms and filing to knowing whether a proposed settlement is fair to understanding what the law entitles you to.
You should ask yourself all of these questions and more when deciding whether to hire a divorce lawyer or not, and you have a great deal to think about. But if your spouse retains the services of an attorney, you may also want to do so. Not having representation potentially puts you at a serious disadvantage. Many divorce lawyers don’t like going up against people representing themselves. They fear a judge throwing out a settlement because it’s too skewed in favor of their client. That’s how stacked the deck is against you.