By Judigo Legal Team Last updated January 18, 2024
Getting a divorce is like going on a long, winding road trip without a map. The divorce process is confusing, stressful, and sometimes it feels like you’re going in circles. And just like any other journey, having someone with experience and knowledge to guide you can make all the difference. That’s where a divorce lawyer comes into the picture. But do you absolutely need one?
While some may be tempted to handle the process themselves to save money, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons carefully. Divorce involves a myriad of legal and financial complexities that may not be immediately apparent. From property division and child custody to spousal support and retirement accounts, the legal landscape can be daunting. If there is any disagreement between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse regarding finances, spousal or child support, property division, or child custody, hiring a lawyer may be a good idea.
If your divorce is simple (no children, no shared assets, no debt) and uncontested, you might be able to navigate the process without a lawyer. An uncontested divorce is one in which the couple agree to the divorce and on all major issues relating the the dissolution of the marriage. Major issues usually include things such as the division of property (such as real estate), division of marital assets (such as money in bank accounts, retirement plans, savings accounts, pension plans, and investments), division of marital debt, spousal maintenance (such as alimony), financial support, and custody and financial support of minor children.
However, “simple” is not a word usually used to describe any divorce. Even without kids or shared property, there are emotions involved. And emotions can complicate even the simplest of things.
Hispanics have a saying “lo barrato sale caro” which roughly translates to “the cheap ends up being expensive.” Just remember that in trying to accomplish a cheap divorce, you may end up saving pennies to later lose dollars.
So, even if you and your spouse have no kids, no debt, no (or limited) assets, or kids; or are lucky enough to agree on custody rights and how financial matters will be handled, it might still be wise to hire a divorce lawyer to ensure your rights are protected. This could involve simply having a lawyer draft a divorce decree or review a divorce agreement. Luckily, there are many law firms and divorce attorneys that are willing to charge a flat rate for such limited services.
If you decide to go forward with a do-it-yourself divorce, it would be very wise for you to research the proper steps, relevant divorce laws (especially regarding community property), and forms you need to prepare and file. Many, if not all states, for example, have residency requirements in order to initiate a divorce action.
If you’ve been served with divorce papers, your spouse has hired an attorney, or have a contested divorce on your hands, you should definitely consider hiring a lawyer. Unlike an uncontested divorce, a contested divorce occurs when one of the spouses does not want to end the marriage, or if there is a disagreement regarding things such as how marital property, debt, or child custody will be distributed.
Domestic abuse or violence, of you or your children, are other issues that often complicate a marriage dissolution. One or both spouses may have to fight for or against child visitation rights and restraining orders. While an experienced family law attorney would be highly recommended in these types of scenarios, unfortunately, not many people can afford one. The good news is that there are many family law attorneys willing to offer free (pro bono) or low-cost services (more on this below in the “Free & Low-Cost Alternative Options” section). You just have to put in the work to find one.
And let’s not forget, sometimes, you just need a lawyer to understand all the legal jargon and guide you through the jungle of divorce proceedings. Seriously, have you ever tried reading a legal document? It’s like trying to understand a foreign language, but without the fun of being in a foreign country.
If you want or need legal representation but can’t afford it, the following are free or low-cost options. One of the great things about these options, other than the lower cost, is that you can mix and match!
Final words about low cost options: Be wary of online divorce companies and paralegals who offer their services at bargain basement prices. Make sure to research and vet anyone you intend to hire. And remember–only state bar-licensed lawyers can give you advice about legal issues!
Like most things in life, whether or not you need a divorce lawyer isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. It largely depends on your specific situation. If you’re unsure, it doesn’t hurt to consult with a lawyer to understand your options better. Chats with lawyers on Judigo Legal are free, but if you need something more than a quick chat, many member attorneys offer free, longer consultations.
After all, it’s better to have and not need, than to need and not have, right? That goes for umbrellas, spare tires, and yes, divorce lawyers.
Whether you choose to hire a lawyer or brave the road alone, remember this: you’re stronger than you think, and you will get through this. Take care of yourself.
Disclaimer: This article is meant to be informational and does not constitute legal advice. Consult with a lawyer for advice on your specific situation.