Do You Need a Divorce Lawyer?
A divorce can affect you emotionally, financially, and legally. Your divorce will legally resolve important rights and obligations concerning 1) financial support, 2) division of property, and 3) custody and visitation of your minor children. While these are certainly vital issues, the law on these points is not complicated and is reasonably uniform throughout the United States.
Will you need a lawyer to handle your divorce of should you represent yourself (often called a pro se divorce)? To answer this question, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Is your divorce contested or uncontested? If you and your spouse agree to divorce, agree on how to divide your property, and agree concerning any child custody issues, then you have an uncontested divorce. If you and your spouse disagree about any of these issues, or about whether or not a divorce should even take place, then the divorce is contested. A contested divorce usually requires the services of an attorney.
2. Do you have minor children? The most important issues in a divorce concern the welfare of your minor children. These include child support, custody, and visitation rights. Because these issues are so important, the court will want to ensure that any resolution is, in fact, in the best interest of your minor children. The agreements you make about your children must be fair and in the best interests of the children. If these agreements are not your divorce will not be approved. If you are unable to agree on these issues, each spouse will require the services of an attorney.
3. Do you have minimal and easily divided property? If your divorce consists of deciding who gets the dog or the furniture, you and your spouse can resolve these questions on your own, without an attorney. If you own considerable property, you will want an attorney to make certain you receive your fair share and that you consider existing liabilities and taxation.
4. Do you need or expect future support from your spouse? If you will be financially dependent upon your spouse you may need an attorney to help you negotiate equitable support, as well as make the obligation binding through valid support agreements. Alimony and spousal support are becoming less common as more husbands and wives pursue prosperous careers. Still, if you have questions about whether you are entitled to alimony�or what a proper support amount should be�you will need an attorney's advice.
In summary, you likely do not need an attorney if:
- You and your spouse want the divorce and agree on the division of property;
- You have no minor children or you have agreed upon child custody, visitation, and support;
- Your marital or separately owned property is minimal; and
- You are not seeking alimony or spousal support.
Advantages of a Divorce Lawyer
Regardless of whether you think you need an attorney, retaining one does offer you several advantages:
- You can let your attorney handle all the details while you move on with your life, with less concern over legal matters.
- An attorney will give you added protection�particularly in areas where you may not now see the need for protection.
- Your attorney can be a buffer between you and your spouse and resolve some of the more emotionally charged issues.
- The judge and court clerk will prefer to work with your attorney. Since your attorney knows the procedures, your case can be processed more efficiently.
- A lawyer can be emotionally supportive during the divorce. It can be comforting to have an attorney to turn to for objectivity when your feelings cloud clear thinking.