With the growing availability of do-it-yourself (DIY) divorce kits, some couples ask, “How important is hiring a divorce lawyer?” Even with a DIY kit, some divorces will cost more than a wedding. People considering divorce and trying to save money should know the benefits of a divorce lawyer compared to doing it themselves.
The Benefits of Hiring a Divorce Lawyer
In an effort to save money and divorce quickly, couples sometimes rush into mutual agreements without knowing their state laws. As a result, they then regret not hiring an attorney. While legal representation is expensive, costs of not hiring a lawyer can be far greater in the long run. Divorce attorneys generally provide benefits that make the expense worthwhile.
As a rule, each party needs their own lawyer. Occasionally, one lawyer suffices for both when there are few assets, and the couple reaches a fair agreement beforehand. Unless you have no children, no real assets, and neither party contests the divorce, you need an advocate who ensures you receive everything to which you are entitled. A divorce lawyer can help with the following and more:
- Property valuation
- Accurate assessment of marital assets
- Equitable distribution of outstanding debt
- Distribution of marital property—house, vehicles, household goods, etc.
- Preparation of ancillaries (custody, child support, spousal support/alimony, visitation, custody)
- Negotiating on your behalf with your spouse’s lawyer
- Representing you at the divorce hearing
- Assessment of retirement funds, savings accounts, 401K plans, and continuation of health insurance where permitted. (Some states do not allow this once the divorce is final.)
Facts to Consider
- A contested divorce means greater costs. Even in a no-fault divorce state, your spouse may still try contesting the divorce. While not likely to be granted, the court has an obligation to hear the case. Ending the marriage amicably decreases the stress. Where children are involved, it causes them much less anxiety. Even when parting amicably, it pays to hire a lawyer.
- Couple often fail to get everything in writing when they do not hire a divorce lawyer. You may agree to something but have no written record. A divorce lawyer ensures nothing is left to verbal communication; everything will be in writing. Legal documents protect you from your ex-spouse returning later, saying they never agreed to the terms of the divorce. The court signs off on the agreement at the time it issues the final dissolution decree.
- Experience matters. Choose a divorce lawyer with several years’ experience. Avoid hiring a lawyer based solely on their fee schedule. Research and verify credentials of any attorney you might choose. The greater an attorney’s experience and expertise, the better you your representation.