If you have not been married for very long and you don’t have any assets or children, you may not need to hire an attorney to represent you in the divorce. The forms are available online or you can go down to the courthouse and buy the packet and fill it out and you may not need an attorney in that situation. However, if you’ve been married for a while, you’ve accumulated assets or you have children or both, then hiring an attorney is a good idea because there are a lot of moving parts to a divorce case.
One situation that you have to address are the mandatory financial disclosures. Both parties are required to fill out sworn financial statements and also exchange mandatory financial disclosures. Some people are very challenged by this task. They have no idea how to do that and your case is not going to be finished unless you’re able to complete that basic requirement. Another situation where you really should hire an attorney is if you have a contested custody situation. In other words, you and your partner do not agree about parenting time, decision making or other factors regarding allocation of parental responsibilities. There is nothing more important to you than your children and you should get some legal advice and consider hiring an attorney if you are not going to agree with your spouse or partner regarding parenting time and other major decisions regarding the children. I have a lot of people come see me, post-decree, who have entered into parenting plans and realize that they’re a disaster, that it’s not feasible, it’s not going to work, and then they end up spending money on the back end trying to fix that situation.
Other times that you should consider hiring an attorney involve where you’ve had a real long term marriage and one party is a high wage earner and the other party has been a stay at home parent. In particular, the stay at home parent needs to get some legal advice regarding whether they’re entitled to spousal support, which is also known as maintenance and for how long and what amount. Also, if you have complex assets. In other words, if you own a house together, you should get some legal advice and consider hiring an attorney if you own property together or there’s property that’s been accumulated during the marriage, if you have retirement accounts that needed to be divided up, if you have debt, if you have assets and liabilities really need to consider hiring an attorney because you may not do the paperwork correctly. The courts are very busy. The judges don’t have a lot of time to help you through this process so these are reasons why you should consider hiring an attorney.