A lot of people ask themselves whether they can have a divorce without a lawyer, in fact it’s one of the most common questions they ask. One of the first things to come to mind when imagining lawyers is the huge bill we’ll be given for services rendered. Divorce without a lawyer has to be more affordable, right?
Well, yes and no. The possibility of divorce without a lawyer, like anything else in life, comes with a lot of considerations.
Why a Divorce Without a Lawyer?
This is probably the most common reason to divorce without a lawyer. Depending on your state of residence, you may not have to do anything except show up with a few signed papers and pay a fee. There’s no need to get a lawyer on retainer or pay expensive legal fees, if this is the case.
Unfortunately, this is heavily dependent on your location. Some states have made divorce as easy as possible, as long as both parties are willing. However, other states will require you to jump through multiple hoops, which can get very expensive, very fast. In these cases, lawyers can help you catch mistakes that will save you the pain of having to start from the beginning.
A less common, but still excellent reason to look into a lawyerless divorce, as it is often much quicker than going through the court process, and provides invaluable comfort and quick closure when it happens.
A quick divorce allows you to get through the process while limiting your pain, which allows you to start on your road to healing much sooner than you could while stuck in a long and arduous legal battle.
What to Consider with a Lawyerless Divorce
How Many Assets Do You Have?
Getting a divorce without a lawyer is a lot like deciding to file your own taxes. If you only have one bank account and a single W-2, there’s little reason not to do it yourself.
However, if you have stocks and bonds, retirement accounts, multiple sources of income, and significant assets, then it’s time to bring in a professional. Even though the sticker cost is a lot higher than doing it yourself, there is too much financially riding on the success for it to be worth the risk.
Similarly for a divorce, If you and your spouse have tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars in the bank, mutual financial securities, a mortgage, or any other shared investments or costs, it becomes too risky to divide by yourselves, and you need to bring in a professional.
Professionals have earned their position as experts for a reason. They know what to do once things get complicated. They can navigate complex webs of legalese, finances, and more, while the rest of us would flounder.
Can You Handle the Complexities Yourself?
Without the help of a lawyer or professional, you’ll have to do all of the work yourself. It will be up to you to research what paperwork needs to be filed, what fees need to be paid, and any other special actions that need to be taken. Filing things in the wrong order is another risk incurred with filing by yourself, which could cause you to have to restart the process, which could significantly prolong the divorce.
Don’t underestimate the comfort that can come from having a professional help you through the process. Divorce can be difficult and complex, and the legal system is not made to be easily navigated by someone untrained in the field.
Are Things Amicable?
Divorce without a lawyer is only feasible if there is mutual understanding between you and your future ex-spouse. Things must be amicable enough that you can communicate and hash out issues amongst yourselves. If you fight and argue every time you speak, you’ll need a third party to lend a hand.
You and your spouse will need to agree on everything. Any disagreements might result in going to court, and you do not want to be representing yourself in the complexities of divorce law.
You need to agree on more than just getting divorced. The specifics of the divorce such as child custody, division of assets, pay/reception of spousal support, and other decisions can’t be left ambiguous or unresolved.
Do You Trust Your Spouse?
There are horror stories describing spouses who initially claim to want an amicable split, but proceed to drag out the divorce, all the while having been secretly building a case with lawyers. The unprepared spouse was blindsided, and lost more than what they needed to lose.
Some states have permanent alimony laws, meaning that you may have to pay spousal support for the remainder of your natural life, including through your retirement. Some will take your future spouse into account, causing your payments to increase when you remarry. While this is rare, you don’t want to be caught unaware by a partner who has taken the time to prepare behind your back.
Many divorces happen between two people who are eager to “rip off the bandaid” as soon as possible, but it’s important to make sure that you trust your future ex-spouse implicitly, and that they want the same separation as you do.
Details of Divorce without a Lawyer
This refers to the grounds for divorce. This is typically physical separation, marital incompatibility, or the marriage itself breaking down in a way that cannot be avoided or saved. The key aspect of this is that no one party holds the other party responsible.
The reverse of the no-fault divorce. In this case, the divorce is the fault of one person. An example of an at-fault divorce may be in the case of adultery or abuse.
This means that both spouses agree to the reason for the divorce. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s no-fault. This may occur when one spouse has cheated, but does not wish to contest the divorce.
If you want to navigate the waters of a divorce without a lawyer, then it is highly recommended that you do so only in the case of an uncontested divorce. If your spouse plans to contest the divorce, there will be conflict, and if there’s conflict, you’ll want to have an attorney in your corner.
Family Law Facilitator
A family law facilitator is someone, typically an attorney, who helps you when filing in a family court. Their purpose is to help you understand the paperwork and rules of filing for divorce so that you can get everything done correctly the first time, and avoid the hassle of having to start over if there’s a mistake.
Though a family law facilitator is often an attorney, they do not act as your attorney, and they will not be with you in court as a paid attorney would be, though they can provide invaluable assistance.
A divorce mediator can help you have a lawyerless divorce in more complicated situations than simply needing to file some paperwork. If you and your spouse agree on most aspects of the divorce, but disagree on finer points such as parenting plans, division of assets, specifics of child or spousal support amounts, or other issues such as these, divorce mediators can be extremely helpful.
A divorce mediator will connect with you and your spouse and remain impartial at all times. They will help you resolve your issues without getting attorneys or a judge involved. Divorce mediation is known as peaceful, because it focuses particularly on coming to a mutual agreement, and putting all notions of “winning” to the side. When there is only one person looking for a win for both parties involved, a much fairer and more amicable compromise can be made.
Is Divorce Without a Lawyer Right for Me?
Divorce can be the biggest financial decision of your life. You want to make sure that you’re taking conservative, risk-managed steps to secure your income and your future. If every aspect of divorce is agreed upon, and there’s a level of mutual respect between you and your future ex-spouse, then it makes sense to have a lawyerless divorce.
If, however, there is the risk of escalation of conflict, then you need to get in touch with a lawyer. Navigating the court system or fighting a legal professional by yourself will be fraught with risks and dangers which can affect the rest of your natural life.