In an ideal world, you and your spouse sit down and discuss the terms of your divorce settlement amicably.
You reach a quick resolution on property division, child custody, child support, and spousal support.
It goes to the courts and the judge signs the divorce decree and you both move on with your lives.
While that can happen, experience suggests that it usually doesn’t.
At some stage in the process, it is likely that a divorce lawyer, such as the ones at Amiri Family Law is probably going to be required. Let’s break down the reasons why this is usually the case…
If you and your spouse largely see eye to eye on the terms of the agreement, you can go ahead with an uncontested divorce.
You make agreements yourselves on all the main items in a divorce settlement (property division, child custody, child support, and spousal support).
This is generally best for all parties concerned – it involves minimal expense, can pass through the court system in a matter of weeks or a couple of months, and is less stressful for any children involved.
Even in cases where you don’t see completely eye to eye, you may not need a lawyer. A mediator can step in to help you resolve outstanding issues. While this can be a lawyer, it doesn’t need to be.
A mediator can help you reach a workable solution that both parties are happy to sign. As long as it is legally binding and takes into account the best interests of the children (if applicable), the local courts will usually approve it without the need for lawyers.
You may not even have to appear in court in an uncontested divorce.
Keep in mind that one potential pitfall with not hiring a lawyer is that important aspects of a divorce can get missed.
For instance, when dividing property, you may forget to divide the pensions that you’ve earned, which are often a major slice of the assets in a marriage that has lasted for many years.
The problem is that even seemingly “perfect” uncontested divorces can turn sour.
When couples separate and divorce, the emotions involved can cloud judgment, raise tensions, and lead to unwise words and actions that cause serious disputes.
The involvement of lawyers at this stage can have one of two effects:
- The merest mention of a lawyer by one of the spouses actually fans the flames of discontent and further raise emotions
- The legal representatives of each spouse meeting and working towards an agreement is a comfort that eases the tensions.
If you do decide to hire a lawyer, make sure that you ask plenty of questions during the initial consultation to ensure that:
- You understand whether the lawyer prefers mediation and settlement out of court or litigation
- You are hiring an experienced lawyer with a great track record of results for clients
Make sure that you communicate your preferences to your lawyer and arrive at a strategy that will achieve what you want from a settlement without it being dragged endlessly through the courts.
Remember that your spouse will also have hired a lawyer. Much will depend on their strategy too.
If their lawyer is open to meeting and negotiation, it may be in your interest to follow suit. A quick resolution is nearly always better for the wellbeing of your children, as well as your own peace of mind.
Collaborative practice is often a good strategy in these circumstances. This is where both spouses commit (sometimes in writing) to reach an agreement with the help of their attorneys rather than going down the path of litigation.
Sometimes, however, the differences are too great for a settlement, leaving litigation as the only remaining option. In such cases, new attorneys may need to be hired.
Litigation is generally in nobody’s interest but if one (or both) of the spouses find it impossible to settle out of court, a judge will need to decide.
Divorces where lawyers are recommended
In addition to the above scenario of a contested divorce where there is no possibility of a settlement out of court, hiring a lawyer is normally necessary for the following situations:
- Where there has been mental, physical or sexual abuse in the marriage
- Where the children are at risk from physical abuse
- Where you are living in fear of violence
- Where your spouse is being evasive or lying
- Where property has been taken by your spouse
- Where anger, frustration, and animosity dominate the marital relationship
Where there is a threat of physical violence, your lawyer will be able to help you obtain a restraining order as well as with arranging your divorce.
To hire a lawyer or not?
So, do you need a divorce lawyer based on the above information?
There is a chance you can arrange it all yourself though this becomes less likely if:
- There are children from the marriage
- The marriage is of long duration
- Considerable assets were accumulated during the marriage
- Emotions are running high, such as in cases where adultery has caused marriage breakdown
- There has been violence or the threat of violence within the marriage
Failure to hire a lawyer for your divorce settlement in these circumstances can end up costing you – not only financially but in terms of high stress levels and wasted time.