Divorce is not a process that you want to drag out – it’s already painful enough to end your marriage and divide up your household without worrying about all the legal implications as well. Most states today accept no-fault divorces, and it is possible to get through the legal proceedings of divorce within a matter of days (depending on state requirements). However, just because it is possible to divorce quickly and without a lawyer does not mean it’s always the best course of action.
The answer to “Do I need a lawyer for a divorce?” is going to be completely dependent on your circumstances.
You may not need a divorce lawyer if you have no marital assets together (houses, cars, etc.) and no children. This is often the case when seeking an annulment or when you’ve been married a very short time. When you take the quickest possible route, you give up your rights for equitable support and spousal support. If you’re renting, have no kids, and are comfortable leaving with what you currently have in your name – this may be the right choice for you.
Signs You May Need a Divorce Lawyer
While it may seem ideal to get divorced without outside parties involved, using a divorce lawyer can actually decrease contention. It’s less personal than discussing legalities with your former spouse directly and it protects you both from an inequitable split that can handicap one of you financially for years to come. Still not sure? There are a few signs that it’s time to get a lawyer involved in your divorce.
You Have Children
No matter how mutual and caring the split, when there are children involved, you will want to have a lawyer assist you with the agreement. In some states, legal assistance is provided by the court to protect the best interests of the child. In fact, most states have a “best interests of the child standard,” which means that the primary focus of all proceedings in the divorce is providing for the children involved.
It’s an unfortunate and uncomfortable topic, but you’ll also want to discuss and layout an agreement for exercising each partner’s parental rights. Where will the children live? Will they have a primary residence or split time equally between two houses? What are the allowable visiting hours? Will one parent have the right to restrict those visiting hours?
Without a lawyer to advise you, your parental rights could become severely restricted. No matter what you decide together, you’ll want to have it made into a legal agreement to avoid misunderstanding and heartache in the future. This also creates stability for your children during an unstable time. Knowing that they’ll see their parent again next weekend or in two weeks (or whatever your agreement happens to be) creates a sense of order and safety. Not knowing when they’ll see one parent again, or if they’ll ever see them again, can be very difficult for a child psychologically.
You Have Assets Together
When you’re married you accumulate stuff. The 56” screen TV you bought on your last anniversary, the artwork you picked out at that silent auction, your house, your cars, your extensive collection of porcelain salt shakers… whatever you own as a couple will have to be divided between you.
If both of your names are on the mortgage, who will live in the house? Or will you sell it and divide the proceeds? If you have combined savings accounts or investments, how will you divide those fairly based on your contributions? These things can turn the most mutual of divorces contentious. Having a lawyer on your side doesn’t just protect you, it protects your financial future and your ability to move on with minimal bitterness.
You (Or Your Partner) Need Spousal Support
If one of you was a stay-at-home parent or if one partner made significantly more than the other and paid for a majority of your lifestyle, you will need the help of a divorce lawyer. Spousal support is always a touchy subject, even with the best of circumstances. There are many situations in which spousal support is completely justified – such as a division of labor between financial earning and domestic labor. Both parties were participating in the building of a life and a home, and now both parties should still be taken care of financially.
Regardless of your feelings or your reasons, if your spouse mentions spousal support, you should hire a lawyer to protect you from losing more than you should. Your lawyers are here to protect you and to be the voice of reason in a highly emotional time.
If you fear violence from your spouse in response to filing for a divorce, you need a lawyer. Speak to a lawyer about your fears before you discuss divorce with an abusive or unstable partner. Your lawyer will be able to help you file a restraining order before you leave. This is especially important if you have children. If you do not file a restraining order before you remove your children from your home, your spouse may be able to accuse you of – or charge you with – kidnapping.
In addition, if you need money in order to get to safety, you can take money out of any joint accounts you have with your spouse. However, try to take only what you need and try to take less than half of what’s in the account. This will help your case during later divorce proceedings and help protect you from allegations of kidnapping, fraud, or theft. You will also want to have your attorney help you file for immediate spousal support.
If you’re still asking yourself “Do I need a lawyer for divorce?”, contact the Digby Law Firm today. We’ll set up a free consultation to discuss the circumstances and particulars of your case.