Divorce is a dreaded word. For most people, divorce is a period of pain, distress and great contemplation. This is a time when emotions are in a heightened state, and both spouses feel at odds with one another. If children are involved in the divorce, it makes things even more complicated.
But can you handle your divorce without a divorce lawyer? In most cases, you can’t. But in fact, if you don’t have minor kids in your marriage and have little marital assets, you can get a divorce without an attorney, especially if it’s an uncontested divorce. Recent statistics reveal that about half of all divorce filings are “pro se” (for oneself).
Where can I find information on self-representation?
Finding such information can take a while. While you can find useful information from online sources, some websites might be offering incorrect information. It’s always essential to vet the sites you visit and do thorough research as this will impact your life.
You can also find dissolution packets at the district court clerks’ offices at a small fee. These packets include basic instructions to get you started. While counties are different, most county clerks’ offices have basic information regarding divorce.
Find legal document preparers
Some areas have businesses that prepare uncontested divorce paperwork. These people are commonly paralegals, but they are legal document preparers (LDPs). These folks can only prepare forms using the information you provide but can’t offer you legal advice (only licensed lawyers can provide legal advice).
Considerations to make for a divorce without lawyer
Some issues you should consider when approaching a DIY divorce include:
- Spousal rights
- Division of property
- Marital homes
- Child/visitation rights
You also need to take a state by state approach to ensure that you’re following the correct laws. Notably, the first consideration to make when approaching a divorce without a lawyer is whether the two of you have agreed on the issues mentioned above. If you aren’t in agreement with your spouse, it may lead to serious complications to your petition.
Another issue to think about is the documentation of your family’s assets and debts. Once you have discussed all accounting and financial issues with your spouse and you’re both comfortable with your decisions, then you should go ahead and start discussing child custody and support for your kids. The objective here is to ensure that these arrangements are agreeable to both parties.
You’re a good candidate for a divorce without a lawyer if
- You and your spouse are in agreement on all issues (a division of marital property, child custody, etc.)
- You’re comfortable that you have the complete information on your family’s debts and assets, and this isn’t complicated
- You’re at ease with child custody arrangements and believe the settlement is both fair and reasonable
Needs temperament and time
You will surely save money if you choose a DIY divorce case. However, do you have the time to research your state’s law, gather documentation, and follow through everything else that follows? Besides, you need to have an even temperament if you don’t wish to use a lawyer. Divorce without a lawyer isn’t appropriate for your spouse is harboring anger against you or is a danger to you or your children. Similarly, this isn’t something you want to consider if you believe your spouse has been transferring assets and hiding money in secret.
Consider mediation to save money
Sometimes, one or two issues might still stand between spouses who are attempting a divorce without a lawyer. For example, you might still have contentions on visitation rights. You shouldn’t give up because you can still reach a consensus with the help of a divorce mediator. Divorce mediation is an excellent way of handling a divorce if both parties continually fail to agree on the important terms. Similarly, you might need a counselor to put an end to the gridlock of emotional issues are creating a wedge between the two of you.
What only a lawyer can do
An attorney’s role in a divorce case goes beyond reading and applying the law. A qualified lawyer knows what statutes to apply in your specific case to attain an equitable settlement. He or she will use his or her experience dealing with divorce complexities to navigate through your divorce.
In the unfortunate event that your divorce case becomes contested, an experienced divorce lawyer already knows the ins and outs of a family court. The lawyer will also ensure that you make rational decisions. It’s common for divorcing couples to go along with divorce settlement terms for the sake of “getting over with.” Additionally, people who try divorcing without a lawyer fail to pay attention to the finer details because they trust their soon-to-be exes to make the correct decisions or trust verbal agreements.
While most people still know the specifics in their divorce case, it’s still important to think about using a divorce lawyer who’ll help you think about your present and future while negotiating an agreement. What the attorney does is keeping you away from making rash decisions that might hurt you in the future.
The Supreme Court allowed same-sex divorces in every U.S. state. However, each state’s laws keep evolving, which makes same-sex divorcing complicated each passing day. You may need an attorney’s advice if you’re in a same-sex marriage.
Talk to a lawyer first
Many divorce attorneys offer free initial consultations and allow you to explain your unique circumstances to a professional. So, if you are not sure about that, do it yourself divorce, talk to a couple of divorce lawyers first. You will quickly get essential information and instantly know if you need the help and protection of a lawyer.
Whichever route you choose in your dissolution case, please remember that this isn’t an easy time, and it may be good for you to attend counseling sessions or divorce workshops to help mitigate any emotional troubles. Remember divorce is not a ‘winning’ situation, but when you have to go through it, you owe it to yourself and your kids to know every option at your disposal and protect yourself as much as you can.