So, the question of the day is whether or not you should hire a divorce lawyer.
In general, asking yourself if you need to hire a lawyer means something is wrong. Maybe you’ve been arrested. In this case, however, it most likely means divorce is on the table.
Whether or not to represent yourself is a big decision, one that has deep and lasting ramifications. Before you make a final choice, within this bigger question, 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.)
- Does your spouse have an attorney?
We put together this handy infographic to provide a roadmap. While not an exact science, looking at these and other topics often helps make a tough decision easier.
Do I need to hire a Divorce lawyer?
Not every situation is black and white and automatically requires a lawyer. In an amicable divorce, for instance, it’s possible to take a do-it-yourself approach and be just fine. You also have the right to represent yourself in other legal proceedings as well.
But like with most legal matters, things often get twisted and complex in a hurry. Divorce often becomes complicated in short order, even if it appears simple on the surface.
As a rule, in all but the most basic cases, it’s usually in your best interest to have an experienced attorney on your side. They 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. This may put you in a bad position. You want to avoid mistakes that cost you big in the long run.
Related Reading: 10 Divorce Myths Debunked
Lasting Impact of Divorce
Most cases, civil, criminal, or otherwise, have a substantial impact on your life in one way or another.
This is especially true in divorce. Maybe visitation with your kids is on the line. Perhaps you can no longer afford spousal support payments.
At the very least, if you hire a lawyer to represent your best interests, it doesn’t hurt. It’s reassuring to have someone guide you through the process and potential pitfalls and it’s generally best to err on the side of caution.
The choices you make now leave a lasting impression and affect your life for years to come.
Related Reading: Costly Divorce Mistakes That Leave a Lasting Impression
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 end your marriage for little more than filing fees and a handful of other costs. Potentially saving thousands of dollars is an attractive option. That’s why this strategy has become so popular.
Unless you have legal experience, however, representing yourself is also a dicey proposition.
This works best in relatively straightforward cases. The easier, more uncomplicated, the better. We’re talking uncontested divorces, short marriages, and situations without children and with little or no shared property.
If you and your spouse act amicably and work together, there’s no reason why you can’t handle things without hiring a divorce lawyer.
It’s even 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.
Related Reading: Pro Se: A Closer Look at DIY Divorce
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.
Even if things start out friendly and on the up and up, they don’t always stay that way.
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. Splitting up assets, deciding on child custody and visitation, figuring out support, and more get tricky 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. This isn’t everyone’s area of expertise, so DIY mistakes are common.
Related Reading: Why Does Divorce Take So Long?
Does Your Spouse Have a Divorce Lawyer?
You should ask yourself all of these questions and more when deciding whether to hire a divorce lawyer or not. You have a great deal to think about. But there’s one case where it’s especially important.
If your spouse hires a divorce lawyer, you may also want to follow suit.
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.
Related Reading: What’s My Ex Entitled To?
How to Proceed
This shouldn’t be taken as gospel truth, but hopefully, this gives you something to think about. Whether or not to hire a divorce lawyer is a big question.
Just because you answer one of these questions one way or another, that isn’t a definitive answer. We designed this for educational purposes only and shouldn’t be construed as professional advice.
Many people hesitate to hire a divorce attorney. The reasons range from perceived cost to being unsure how to go about it in the first.
While it might seem counter-intuitive, hiring an experienced and dedicated family law attorney can actually save you money and provide you peace of mind through the entire divorce process.
As your advocate, your divorce lawyer helps create a divorce agreement that meets your needs and accommodates your unique circumstances. An experienced attorney works with you to address both your immediate and long-term goals.
Parenting plans, spousal support, and the division of assets, all carry consequences that last years if not longer. And once in place, these court orders prove difficult and expensive to modify in the future. It’s important to do things right the first time.
San Diego’s best family law practitioners are familiar with the nuances of the law and will create a strategy for your case based on your unique facts. Hiring the right divorce lawyer makes sure you get the most favorable outcome possible, protects your rights and assets, and may save you money on child support and spousal support.
Related Reading: If I File For Divorce First Do I have An Advantage?