The Friendly Divorce: You Don’t Need a Lawyer—Or Do You?
Posted in: Divorce
The scenario happens every day. You and your spouse are no longer working as a couple. Perhaps the kids are grown and out of the house and you both have developed separate interests. Perhaps you married too young and you have grown apart. Whatever the reason, you aren’t at war and you and your spouse are convinced you can divorce and still remain friends. So why spend the money to hire lawyers? In this age of internet access, all you have to do is download some legal forms, fill them out, file some papers and shazam—you’re divorced! But is it really that simple?
Life is full of twists and turns, and a divorce is a major bend in the road. Don’t you think it deserves proper attention?
Before you go off on your own to play lawyer, here are the top ten reasons why you should talk to a qualified divorce attorney now—before you agree to anything:
- If this person were perfect, you wouldn’t be getting a divorce. You can have the protection from unknowingly waiving your legal rights that you need but keep the process amicable so you are protected legally, and you still are friends. For instance, there is a process called “collaborative divorce” where the parties and their attorneys work as a team with other professionals, such as a financial consultant, to ensure that the entire “package” (i.e.: division of assets and alimony and child support) is well thought out and economically advantageous and for the best interest of both the former husband and wife.
- Even in relatively simple divorces, there are regulated assets involved, such as IRAs. Normally, if you break an IRA, you incur immediate penalties and taxes. You will need the help of a professional to determine how to split up those assets without incurring tax penalties and interest.
- If either of you wants to move out of state, you will need professional help. Each state’s laws vary, but in most states, you cannot move your children out of state without the court’s permission. A legal professional can ensure that you meet all of the legal requirements to move out of state with your children.
- Even though there is information easily accessible on the Internet, this does not mean that there is any substitute for the experience of a good matrimonial lawyer who knows the ins and outs of the process. You need professional support to make sure you are filing the correct forms in the correct way, and more importantly, taking all steps to protect your legal rights.
- Dealing with the court system can be somewhat daunting, so it is in your best interests to have a lawyer guide you through that process. Courts have complicated rules and procedures for filing of motions, answering of motions and other legal procedures. If you do not know what you are doing, you can prejudice your legal rights – for instance, what if you do not file a response in time, have you waived your rights? If there is a remedy, how do you affect it? These are sophisticated issues not covered in simple forms. You need a lawyer to help you with these issues.
- The situation seems amicable now, but situations can change. If, for whatever reason, your amicable situation deteriorates in the middle of the process, you may end up eventually needing legal counsel. Your attorney would then be in a compromised position of having to learn the case and, more significantly, will need to deal with any adverse court outcomes which arose prior to the attorney’s involvement, and agreements entered into before his or her entry into the case. You may have agreed to something early on (such as a custody visitation schedule with no flexibility) that you now cannot change. By bringing counsel in later rather than sooner, you will be facing an uphill battle that could have been avoided.
- Either you or your spouse may want to remarry in the future, so it is necessary to ensure that all of the legal issues are fully resolved now so as that when you go to remarry, you are not left with any loose strings. Such issues can range from whether your alimony stops if you remarry, to the ability of your ex-spouse to contest custody if you remarry and he or she does not like your new spouse. A good lawyer will have the experience to spot these issues and assist you in planning for any eventualities.
- You have a prenuptial agreement, and you need help interpreting what it says. It may be so complicated that neither you nor your spouse can really make heads or tails of what assets go to which party. A good lawyer can assist you in interpretation and effecting a just disposition of assets.
- If you have children, it is necessary to work out complex issues such as visitation schedules and legal custody issues. This is not an area where you want to have a vaguely drafted arrangement. There will be lots of issues that your attorney can foresee, such as who makes what decisions for the children on all important issues like medical care and education. It is better to have a clear understanding now than to fight about it later.
- Your spouse wises up and suddenly gets a lawyer. You wish you had thought of it first! You cannot protect yourself against a professional who knows the law better than you do. Don’t end up behind the “eight ball.” Protect yourself – hire an attorney before it’s too late!!