These days, it’s easier than ever to get divorced. You can find the forms online, fill them out yourself, and if you follow the proper procedure, end your marriage. This do-it-yourself approach works like gangbusters in some situations, but not for others. At some point in the process, you need to ask yourself if you should hire a divorce lawyer.
You have a lot of choices to make during this time, and deciding whether or not to hire a divorce lawyer is a big one. Ending a marriage is often a tumultuous time. People don’t always think clearly. Having an experienced professional to guide you often makes a huge difference in the outcome.
However you answer this question, there’s a great deal to consider.
Do I Need A Divorce Lawyer?
By this stage, you’ve probably asked yourself many questions, like why you’re staying married, can you save your marriage, and if divorce is really the best option? It’s important to contemplate these topics. That said, they’re of relatively little consequence when figuring out whether to hire a divorce lawyer.
This question comes up after the decision has already been made. Maybe you filed for divorce, maybe it was your spouse, or perhaps is was a mutual conclusion. What we’re more concerned with for the moment is trying to determine if you need representation.
The DIY approach works great in many cases. That’s part of why it’s become so popular. It’s best in straightforward situations. This usually means shorter marriages without children, with little shared property, and where the spouses agree on everything.
It is possible to handle more complicated divorces on your own. But remember, the more complex things become, the more potential hazards you face. Ending a marriage affects custody, your finances, and much more. The more complicated your situation, the more you’re likely to benefit when you hire a divorce lawyer. While you can handle the details of your split yourself, having representation benefits you in a number of areas.
1. Division Of Property
The more assets you have, the more complicated the division of property becomes. This includes homes, cars, bank accounts, and even retirement benefits. Oregon is an equitable distribution state. That means the courts view property as belonging to the spouse who earned it. But that doesn’t mean divorce divides everything gets along those lines.
The court aims for each spouse to emerge on relatively even financial footing. Ideally, they want both to enjoy the standard of living they had while married. It’s possible for spouses to work together to divide assets. However, the more conflict you have, the more problems usually arise. You may want to hire a divorce lawyer to help ensure the agreement is fair and balanced.
2. Child Custody
Having children complicates divorce proceedings in many cases. Child custody battles often grow heated and contentious. Again, it’s possible to work out a parenting plan between you and your spouse. But this is a situation where things can get hectic and complex in no time. Having representation helps in many ways, and this may influence your decision to hire a divorce lawyer or not.
In child custody cases, the court’s overriding mandate is to do what’s in the child’s best interest. Enlisting an attorney experienced in his area often provides a huge benefit. Not only can having a third party help calm down raging emotions, but a professional can help develop a strategy to protect your rights as a parent. They help guard custody claims, visitation, and more.
3. Child Support
When you have children, child support usually comes into play. How this affects you generally has a lot to do with the custody situation. In general, the parent with the most overnights receives the payments from the other.
There’s a formula to determining child support that accounts for need, income, and many other factors. These payments cover the costs of caring for the child in question, both regular expenses and unexpected costs. This includes food, clothing, shelter, education, medical care, and other necessities.
4. Spousal Support
While child support has a formula, spousal support is less systematic. When determining whether or not to award spousal maintenance, the court weighs many elements. They consider:
- need of support,
- the length of the marriage,
- any continuing health concerns,
- future employment opportunities,
- and more.
The court doesn’t award spousal support in every case, and it can continue indefinitely or run for a limited time. If you hire a divorce lawyer, they can help you on this front. Someone with experience can prevent you from paying more than you can afford, or ensure you get enough to meet financial needs following the divorce.
5. Divorce Settlement
DIY divorce may result in a quicker, cheaper divorce than if you hire a divorce lawyer. That said, it may also lead to unexpected issues in the future. The division of property, child custody arrangements, spousal support, child support, and other areas get complicated. They also have a huge impact on your life moving forward.
Divorce settlements are complex legal documents. It’s all too easy to sign on the dotted line and not truly understand what it says. A judge won’t generally approve a divorce settlement that skews sharply in favor of one spouse or the other. But that doesn’t mean it’s entirely fair or as equitable as it could be. Once the court issues a divorce decree, they’re difficult, not to mention expensive, to modify. If you hire a divorce lawyer, they can help head off potential disaster ahead of time.
If you go the DIY route, consider consulting an attorney even if you don’t hire a divorce lawyer for the entire case. They can explain your rights and make sure you know exactly what you agreed to.
If you have questions about your case, contact Goldberg Jones at our Portland office.