Divorce leads to mixed emotions like anger, sadness, relief, and paranoia. From children suffering separation anxiety from an absentee parent to the legal process of processing and finalizing it, going through a divorce can be stressful. If you’re about to divorce your partner or are thinking of getting one, you likely wonder; do you need a lawyer for a divorce? 53% of all marriages in the US ended up in divorce by 1981. Some are caused by unforeseen circumstances, while others by design. While the legal factors likely to lead to separation or divorce vary state by state, the most commons reasons include Extra-marital affairs, Drug or alcohol addiction, Withdrawal from sex, Mental, physical, or financial abuse, Erectile dysfunction in marriage, Bigamy, Psychological illness, and Criminal conviction or imprisonment. Of all the reasons, adultery or extra-marital affairs is the most common ground for divorce. However, the faithful partner needs strong evidence to prove the at-fault partner cheated. Mere suspicions might not be tolerated. For example, you can’t claim your spouse is cheating on you after walking in on them sitting in a restaurant while having drinks with a person of the same or opposite gender. If you’re in this predicament, it’s easy to assume you can represent yourself in a divorce court to avoid paying an attorney’s legal fees. Perhaps you imagine the court will be lenient on you, compelling your at-fault partner to face the consequences. So, you rush to the internet to get information on navigating the divorce process. You’ll get everything you need to know, but you might lose everything you amassed and spend the rest of your life regretting it.
The pros and cons of hiring a divorce lawyer
1. It would be best if you had a close confidant by your side
One of the worst effects of divorce is explaining to your loved ones what happened. It’s not enough to make special adjustments to your life; now, you have to deal with the issue of vindicating yourself. It takes dedication to thrive in a marriage, so walking out is automatically mentally draining. Getting a lawyer means you have someone to lean on for legal advice and to check up on you. They’re like your genuine friend who keeps you from making mistakes that might worsen your divorce process.
2. It would be best if you had someone who’s well-versed with the law by state
Imagine representing yourself in court only to realize that the laws have changed. The worst that can happen is that the court might turn down your petition. You need to recognize that some legal terms are far much more complicated than what you read on the internet. You might have a rough idea about the meaning of some terminologies, but you can never be sure if they hold in-depth information. For example, you might decide to divorce your spouse due to drug and alcohol addiction. However, the law might turn against you. The court might require solid evidence to determine if the substance addiction affected your marriage or not. Having a divorce attorney is one of the best ways of ensuring you don’t face the consequences of your ignorance. A divorce lawyer has more experience in the meaning of court orders and statutes and how they relate to your situation. That way, you won’t have a problem battling your case, regardless of the cause.
3. It would help if you had someone to do the paperwork on your behalf
The last thing you need is to request, fill, and submit your divorce papers to ensure you have a smooth transition. It’s not enough that you’re going through a divorce; now, you have to take time off work to meet deadlines because of the strictness of the courts granting you the divorce. There are many things involved in the paperwork. For example, you might have to get the judge’s signature or any other person involved in your divorce proceedings. So, if you fail to submit the documents on time, your case could get dismissed. To save yourself from this baggage, it’s advisable to get an attorney for divorce. They most likely will handle everything at the right time to ensure your case pulls through. The only thing left to do is show up for court appointments like mediation, helping you navigate the law.
4. You need a person with a voice of reason
Perhaps you feel betrayed by your spouse when they cheated on you. The worst part is realizing they aren’t remorseful, and they’ve decided to move in with the person they cheated on you with. It might take months or years to move on, mainly if kids are involved because they keep asking questions. When in this predicament, you don’t know whether to blame yourself for the betrayal or make them pay for hurting your feelings. At this time, it’s easy to make unsound decisions like moving out of your family house or getting rid of anything that reminds you of them. Such moves can make you feel emotionally drained. Having a lawyer to navigate your divorce is like mental therapy. Your lawyer understands what you’re going through, so they should be with you every step of the way. Also, part of their job is to keep you from falling apart and making bad decisions that you will live to regret.
5. They are your go-to person for decision-making
Are you contemplating filing for child custody? Perhaps, all you want is to relocate to another town with your children to ensure you don’t meet eye-to-eye with your would-be ex. Either way, it’s essential to make a decision that will make everyone happy, including your children. When going through a divorce, it’s daunting to decide the best decision. Fortunately, your lawyer can offer the best litigation advice to keep you from regretting a wrong decision.
6. To help you navigate your rights
You aren’t the first person to go through a divorce, and neither will you be the last. However, being in this situation can make you doubt if the courts will protect your rights, even if you were wrong. Court rulings on alimony, child custody, and timesharing still favor either party. Your lawyer can explain to the court about your willingness to be in your child’s life, regardless of who caused the separation.
7. To avoid the complicated litigation process
Going by the rise in divorce rates in the US, it’s difficult to predict how long yours will last. Your litigation can take months or years to finalize if you choose to represent yourself. It’s worse when there are more than two reasons that caused your divorce. In that case, the court might decide to lengthen your litigation after examining each cause in question. Shortening your litigation is one of the most significant selling points of hiring a divorce attorney. They already know how complicated your litigation can get, hence will compel the court to shorten it. Unless you and your spouse are willing to agree, you have higher chances of facing the hassle of on and off-court sessions that can take ages.
8. To ensure the dealings are fair
According to Golden Key Law Group, divorce attorneys are experienced in ensuring fairness for both parties. Part of the reason such litigations are complex is to ensure fairness when dividing properties and assets. It also gets more complicated if children are involved. So, if both parties have hired divorce attorneys, it’s easy to get free and fair dealings, leaving everyone happy.
- You will incur legal fees which are mostly heftier if your case is complicated.
- It might bring “bad blood” between the spouses. Your spouse might think you have malicious motives like taking kids away from them or retaining all the assets and property amassed during the marriage, and vice versa.
The pros and cons of representing yourself in a divorce court
Representing yourself is termed as being “pro se,” a Latin for “one’s own behalf.” That means you will be handling the paperwork, filing the case, and meeting court deadlines by yourself.
- It saves you money on legal fees should you win the case
- You want to be on good terms with your would-be ex if your divorce case is uncontested.
- You have control over your case
- It makes you appear biased because you tell the court your side of the story
- You might not be familiar with the statutes and how they apply to your case
- Dealing with the hassle of cumbersome paperwork and meeting deadlines
- You might not be aware of your rights
- High odds of losing your case if your spouse already has a divorce attorney
When to hire a lawyer
The law allows you to hire a lawyer or represent yourself, but you have more reasons to go with the former options for your peace of mind. The following factors might require you to get a lawyer immediately:
1. You’re facing abuse
According to FindLaw, verbal or physical abuse in a marriage is against the law. Your spouse can easily make you pay for leaving them or keeping them away from their children. However, it’s not easy to prove the abuse or get fair justice unless you hire a lawyer.
2. You believe your spouse is dishonest
When navigating a divorce proceeding and the issue of property and children comes up, it’s difficult for the court to determine fair treatment. Your spouse may as well lie about building the property alone from scratch. In the case of child custody, your spouse can also lie that you’re abusive to your children or have no time for them. The only way to have peace of mind is by getting a lawyer to argue your litigation.
3. Your spouse has already hired a divorce attorney
When your spouse has a retained attorney, you will be judged unfairly. They already have a robust support system by their side, which means you risk losing the case if you walk the journey alone. Having a lawyer is a win-win for both parties.
Things you should avoid doing when going through a divorce
1. Don’t have a baby
According to Legal Zoom, getting pregnant for up to 300 days is illogical after your divorce. The argument is that children born during this period might lose paternal rights for financial support. However, the law regarding such litigations varies by state, but it should warn anyone in this predicament.
2. Don’t have a sexual relationship with your lawyer
A divorce lawyer is your go-to person if you need legal help and mental therapy to keep you from making bad decisions. The worst part is that you will spend more time with them, which might escalate to a sexual relationship. Such a scenario ruins your chances of getting fair treatment because the court prohibits attorney-client sexual relationships. Your would-be spouse might earn favor in the eyes of the court, even if they also cheated before the divorce.
3. Don’t ignore the power of therapy
Stress and depression are the two most prevalent mental conditions that divorced couples face. It’s easy to get irritated, mainly if you two were close, and now there’s no one to take their place. While it’s believed that time takes the pain away, it isn’t the time to assume your mood swings will go away. It’s time to see a therapist to keep you from falling apart. Moreover, a therapist can advise you on navigating singlehood before entering a new relationship.
4. Don’t ignore your kids’ opinions about the divorce
Your kids will ask complicated questions, wondering how life will be without their father or mother. The questions might get overwhelming, compelling you to take it out on them. No matter how sad and angry you are, nothing changes the fact that you’re still their parent. It’s the perfect time to be close to them to help them accept the situation.
Going through a divorce is a big decision, making it difficult to choose “pro se” legal representation or hiring an attorney. While the former is an option, it’s not always the best option because the risks of losing the case are higher. Fortunately, you don’t need to navigate your divorce alone. A divorce lawyer will be by your side for professional legal advice and help you navigate the tedious paperwork.