One of the biggest questions you’ll ask yourself while ending a marriage is whether or not you need a divorce lawyer. No two divorces are ever the same, so there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. It all depends on the specific circumstances of your case. But what if your spouse hires one? In that case, should you hire a divorce lawyer too?
The short answer is yes. If your spouse hires a divorce lawyer, it’s in your best interest to hire an attorney to represent you. There’s more to it than that, and again, it varies by case. But in general, unless you have legal experience, you don’t want to go up against an expert practitioner without help.
In the current landscape, it’s easier than ever to handle divorce on your own. You can, in just a few steps, download the forms, pay the fees, file the paperwork, and dissolve your marriage. While that can work great in simple cases, straightforward ones where both spouses agree on everything, it’s not always ideal. Things can get complicated in short order. It often helps to have a divorce lawyer to guide you through the process. Especially if your spouse has one.
Benefits of Self-Representation
The biggest benefit of not hiring a divorce lawyer is obviously money. Representing yourself costs so much less. Attorneys aren’t known for being cheap. After all, it’s expensive to go to law school. Using online guides and kits, you can save a ton in this regard. Finalizing your divorce in this manner often winds up costing little more than filing fees.
Potentially saving thousands of dollars is enticing, which is why this is such a popular option. But unless you have legal experience, representing yourself may become a dicey proposition. Generally, this works best in relatively simple cases. Think short marriages where you have little or no shared property to divide, no kids, and both agree on the details. In cases like that, serving as your own divorce lawyer can work well.
A better fit for uncontested divorce, you can still handle everything yourself in more complex cases. It’s possible to work out the division of property, child custody, and even spousal support on your own. However, the more you have to deal with, the trickier it becomes, and the more hazards you face.
Hiring a divorce lawyer helps protect your rights and interests. A professional can steer you in the right direction. Even if you handle the case yourself, you may want to have an attorney look over everything before it becomes final. This costs less than hiring one for the entire process, and it can save you in the long run. No one wants to realize too late they made a mistake or agreed to unfavorable terms when they didn’t have to.
Downside Of Representing Yourself
While serving as your own divorce lawyer has perks, it also comes with drawbacks and risks. Saving money is great and all, but cases can turn on a dime. If you and your spouse are able to work together toward a common goal, it’s often an effective strategy. In situations with animosity and conflict, however, it’s not always a good idea.
Many couples start the road to divorce with the best intentions. But it’s important to ask yourself whether you and your spouse can truly collaborate. Dividing assets and debts, establishing a parenting plan, deciding on support, all of these get tricky in the best situations. Even if you begin on the same page, old tensions and hurt feelings may flare up quickly. Things often become heated and contentious without much warning, which complicates matters.
Even the basics like making sure you fill out the forms correctly become important. You don’t want to get through the whole process only to have the court throw everything out because your divorce settlement skews too far one way or because you made an easily avoidable error. Divorce lawyers can guide you through, smooth out the process, and help you avoid traps and pitfalls.
If your spouse has a divorce lawyer, not having one of your own usually puts you at a serious disadvantage. Professionals have a deeper understanding of the law than most average citizens. One comparison is like a beer league softball player stepping into the batter’s box against an MLB pitcher. They’re on two very different levels.
Whether to represent yourself or hire a divorce lawyer is a huge question. It’s one that has a wide range of impacts. Ending a marriage affects nearly every aspect of your life, so the consequences are real and long lasting.
When considering this decision, it’s important to ask yourself a number of questions. Do you have kids, shared assets, and other factors that may complicate matters? Are you and your spouse capable of interacting rationally or is one of you acting unreasonably? Do you understand the process and what you’re legally entitled to? Does your spouse have a divorce lawyer? These are just a few things to think about before making a final decision.
If you’re still in the decision-making stage, you may want to consider meeting with a divorce lawyer. Even just a consultation can give you an idea of the complexity of your case, what you have to deal with, and hopefully provide a better idea of what your case needs.
If you have questions about hiring a divorce lawyer, contact Goldberg Jones at our Portland office.