Let’s start with the positive. If you handle your own divorce, you’ll save money on an attorney’s fee. But that may be the only good thing.
Here’s the negative. The potential for disastrous financial and other hazardous consequences of a “do-it-yourself” divorce is high and can significantly outweigh the money you saved by not hiring an attorney. Foregoing the guidance of a divorce lawyer can permanently affect how property is divided, alimony payments, child custody, visitation, and support.
That’s putting a lot at stake.
While you can do a cheap divorce without an attorney using instructions and forms found online, the overall and long-term financial and family jeopardy you expose yourself to may greatly outweigh the only benefit (saving money on an attorney’s fee) of not hiring skilled legal representation. It would be nice if divorce was so simple and clear-cut that just anybody could do it. But while divorce doesn’t necessarily need to be expensive, especially if both spouses agree about the issues of their marriage dissolution, reaching equitable and fair settlements without an experienced divorce attorney’s guidance, at least one party has the potential to be harmed, in some cases irrevocably.
Here are some reasons why a “Do-it-Yourself” divorce could end in disaster or at least be more painful than it needs to be:
Division of Property is Final and Irrevocable To properly understand what constitutes marital and non-marital assets, their value, and the jurisdiction over how they should be equitably divided isn’t something a divorcing couple typically is knowledgeable about. The fact is, once a final property settlement is signed or a court order is issued, property allocation cannot be changed or revoked. Competent divorce lawyers know the intricacies of property division laws and will provide the relevant guidance necessary to ensure property is divided fairly, according to the law.
Alimony Whether alimony should be paid or who should pay it requires some legal analysis of the disparate, if any, economics between the divorcing couple. While one spouse may believe they deserve to be paid alimony, the other may not, and this has the potential to become a serious point of contention. Especially when one spouse has an attorney and the other doesn’t, alimony may either be unfairly ordered or denied. Unless there is obviously no alimony to be paid, a spouse could be permanently left with an inequitable arrangement without proper legal guidance.
Child Support How much child support is reasonable for the care and well-being of minor children can become a serious matter when one parent believes they are entitled to more and the other is inclined to pay less. With a family attorney well-versed in Connecticut Department of Social Services child support guidelines, a support order with all parties-especially the children’s-best interests considered is more likely than if a divorcing couple decides to handle this issue without legal representation. Once child support is ordered by the court, it is extremely difficult, and a lengthy, expensive process, to have it modified. So, it’s important to have legal guidance during divorce proceedings to determine what’s appropriate and manageable for both parents.
Child Custody The pain not only parents experience by no longer having the care and company of their offspring full-time but also the suffering it causes their children may be the most emotionally divisive part of a divorce. While a divorcing couple often disagrees about who is the more competent and accessible for primary raising of children born during the marriage (i.e., who should have primary physical custody), or how custody should be shared, without a lawyer’s argument to the court on your behalf, you may end up with a custody arrangement that not only hurts you but also your minor children.
Jurisdictional Differences in Rules and Procedures A divorcing couple or individual may believe they will be treated effectively by the court when representing themselves. However, this is unlikely to be true. Judges expect all participants in court proceedings to follow the same procedures and processes as attorneys. What’s more, many jurisdictions’ court rules are not uniform and have differences county to county, variances that an experienced attorney will know. Non-attorney divorcing individuals are unlikely to know these court rules and procedures and may experience an unfortunate divorce outcome as a result.
All in all, while not hiring an attorney will save money up-front, not having proper legal guidance may not only ultimately cost you more in dollars but also may create irrevocable or difficult to alter unwanted circumstances regarding property division, alimony, child support, and custody.
Should you decide to attempt a “do-it-yourself” divorce, you may be putting yourself at serious risk. So, before you go that route, we advise you to meet with a divorce attorney to educate yourself about what you’re facing. With that information, you can decide whether you’re willing to take the risks inherent in a lawyer-free divorce.
For a free, no obligation divorce consultation in our Southport office with our experienced, knowledgeable team of family attorneys, call us today at 203.259.1100 or send us a message on our contact form. Because we know emotions are high during divorce considerations, and issues can come up at any time, our phones answer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.