You and your spouse have decided it’s better off for everyone to get a divorce, but if you and your spouse are getting along just fine, do you really need an attorney? Don’t attorneys just make things worse? If you do it yourself, what’s the worst that can happen?
Most couples experience serious sticker shock when meeting with a divorce attorney for the first time. You want how much?!?! How come you can’t tell me the final number this is going to cost me? After leaving the office, you will think to yourself “How hard can it be to get divorced?” You do an online search and BAM there’s a website that just gives you forms you need for FREE!! All you have to do is fill in the blanks, mark a couple of boxes and you are divorced, right? This may seem like a no-brainer if you’re getting along and are willing to reach an agreement. Unfortunately, there can be serious consequences in a do-it-yourself divorce even if you are getting along with your spouse.
Did you know that one of the only careers where a pessimistic personality is seen as a positive attribute is being a lawyer? Attorneys are trained to look at any situation and automatically think worst case scenario and then navigate ways around that worst-case scenario by adding in protections, making sure enough details are included. This is what most do-it-yourself divorcing couples fail to do. Most couples that are going through an amicable divorce never foresee that the parties won’t always see eye to eye, but it does happen. This can lead to agreements that are frustratingly vague and possibly unenforceable.
Attitudes and feelings towards each other can change greatly even after the divorce is final. If something comes up and the Court has to get involved, it quickly becomes more expensive than if the couple had hired attorneys in the first place. It is a lot harder to undo a bad agreement that has become an order of the Court then it is to have the agreements and orders prepared correctly the first time.
However, hiring an attorney may not look like you assume. Divorcing couples have numerous options when it comes to getting a divorce. One option is “kitchen table divorce.” This describes couples that are getting along and can sit down at the kitchen table and go through all of their assets and debts and decide who gets what. They file the paperwork with the Court themselves. Even so, it will always benefit you to hire an attorney to review the agreements to ensure there will be no surprises down the road.
Couples can also reach a settlement through mediation. The mediator acts as a neutral negotiator who assists the couple in reaching agreements in dividing the assets and debts and also issues related to parenting and child support. Attorneys may or not be involved in mediation. If you are getting along with your spouse, but just need help with reaching the agreement, mediation may be the way to go. You and your spouse can contact the mediator directly and share the costs. The mediator will not help file any of the court documents, so you will need to do it yourself or hire an attorney to assist you.
Collaborative Divorce is also an option. Collaboration takes a team approach by using neutral experts and working together to reach agreements thereby allowing the couple to make their own decisions on the outcome of the settlement.
The final option for couples is the “traditional” divorce through the court system with attorney. This can be the most expensive with the parties taking an adversarial position against each other but is necessary if the parties are combative and not willing to compromise.
So, do you really need an Attorney? The short answer is Yes, but it may not look like you first imagined. An understanding attorney can help with any of the above scenarios and tailor our services to meet your families’ needs.
Sarah Wolter, Attorney