Every so often I get the question, “Do I need a lawyer for a divorce?” This is an important decision for an often life altering experience. Divorce proceedings can be expensive – but many times the old adage (which I have updated!) “Penny wise – Dollar foolish” is very applicable. While you are not required to have an attorney for a divorce – the long-lasting implications of what arises from a divorce requires a careful examination of your circumstances
First, if there are minor children involved, there are a number of important issues that must be resolved – such as custody, support and parenting time. Even though any of these factors remain subject to change until the child reaches 18 years old (or up to 19 ½ years old in some instances), these things can’t be modified unless there is amaterial change in circumstances. That is why it is often crucial that a favorable result regarding these aspects involving your minor children be obtained early on in the proceedings and preserved after that.
The second important consideration is the property settlement. Regardless if there are minor children involved, things such as a fair distribution of personal property, who gets the house, how is debt to be divided, spousal support (alimony), claims to retirement benefits and other concerns must be resolved and reduced to writing acceptable by a court. Once judgment is entered, a property settlement is considered permanent which means it can’t be altered except in a few rare instances, which many people don’t realize. Changing your mind, forgetting to include things, not fully realizing the impact of a decision or concession, etc. are not sufficient reasons for a property settlement to be changed and you’re stuck with the results.
The bottom line is there are many aspects to a divorce that a skilled and experienced attorney is aware of that might be missed by a person trying to handle a divorce themselves. Divorces are often emotional and stressful experiences that having a trained professional to help you through is worth it from not only financial considerations – but also just peace of mind.