By Melissa Doss
I get asked this question all of the time by potential clients seeking advice about a divorce. I usually hear “my spouse and I agree on everything, I’m not sure I need an attorney”. Even if your divorce is friendly and you’ve reached a mutual agreement with your spouse about property and/or custody, obtaining help from an attorney is often good idea. Mistakes can be difficult if not impossible to undo; therefore, it’s necessary to get it correct the first time.
When you are going through a divorce with the help of an attorney, you will benefit by having a complete understanding of the issues involved, such as the value of assets and the division of those assets. This information can be obtained through discovery, which can be very difficult to do without an attorney if the opposing party is unwilling to produce the requested information.
In addition to helping you determine the value and division of marital assets, it’s also very important to realize that a local divorce attorney will know your rights under the state law and help educate you on them during the case. Divorce laws vary from state and state and no two cases are alike.
Further, a family law attorney will help you handle follow up issues pertaining to the divorce. Your divorce is not necessarily over when you receive a decree. For example, a judge might order your spouse to share a pension or other assets with you, but the decree might not automatically divide those assets. More paperwork will likely be required to achieve this. When you retain an attorney to handle your divorce, the attorney will take care of these follow-up tasks, including drafting the paperwork necessary to divide assets.
While having an attorney to help you through all aspects of a divorce is ideal, there are situations in which people cannot afford to do this. If you are in this position AND if you and your spouse don’t have any children, own very little property, do not have much debt and have only been married for a short period of time, it’s possible to complete the necessary paper work on your own. However, if you are in this position and decide to go this route, it is still highly recommended that you ask an attorney to review all documents before you file with the court. An attorney can make sure you don’t have any serious mistakes and that you are getting a fair deal. Most lawyers, including myself, will agree to be retained on an hourly rate to look over your documents.