There’s no doubt about it: Hiring a lawyer for legal help in your divorce case can be very expensive. A private attorney can end up costing thousands and thousands of dollars, particularly if your case stretches out for a long time or ends up going to trial. You might think that you can’t afford a lawyer for your divorce case, but truth be told, you can’t afford to skip the legal help in most cases. Here are some reasons why you need a legal advocate as well as tips on making your divorce more financially affordable.
You Can Overlook a Lot in a DIY Divorce
When it comes to filling out paperwork, coming to equitable agreements, and making sure that your divorce is fair to both parties, there’s a lot that can be overlooked in a do-it-yourself divorce. Chances are good that neither of you has filled out the paperwork for a divorce before (or, if you have, it was probably just once or twice). Making errors in these documents can haunt you for a long time; a decision could be written down incorrectly and this error could be enforced later.
In addition, without a good framework laid out for you by a professional, it’s easy to forget about some of your assets or liabilities. Something as simple as neglecting to remove one spouse from the mortgage could come back later as a major issue. Or you might not realize the tax implications of one spouse vs. the other spouse paying the mortgage when one is getting alimony.
Finally, it’s easy to get bogged down and overwhelmed by all of the documents required in a DIY divorce. While many people think that a DIY divorce is faster than a traditional divorce, the fact is that it can take you much longer to compile and complete the paperwork on your own than it would take for an advocacy group to help you through the process.
Emotions Can Get in the Way of a DIY Divorce
Most people who want a DIY divorce and who consider not hiring legal representation do so because they are amicable with their soon-to-be ex and want to keep it that way. It’s not uncommon for divorcing spouses to try to remain friends, and working together through a divorce might feel like the best way to go about it.
Unfortunately, it’s common for emotions to get in the way of advocating for your own best interest. For example, a husband might think that it would be best if he continued to fully support his ex-wife so she can stay home with the children. While this might be the best thing for the family, it also might be something he regrets once the divorce is final. This is particularly true if he decides to remarry within a few years. Paying a large amount of alimony out of a sense of loyalty now could negatively impact his life later. An advocate might help the husband think through the options and place time limits on his willingness to fully support the mother of his children. This is just one example; there are many places in the divorce process that emotions could cloud good judgment.
You’re Usually Stuck With the Results of a DIY Divorce
If you are doing your divorce on your own, you might think that you can always go back and re-negotiate with your ex. While this is possible, it’s more likely that the two of you will not always be on the same page. If one is unhappy with the agreement after a year or two and the other is fine with the way things are, the only recourse might be to take it in front of a judge. Many times, a judge in this situation will enforce the divorce agreement whether or not it’s actually in anyone’s best interest. You do have the right to make choices during the divorce process, and without an advocate to help you think through the different implications, you might end up regretting the ones you make.
Tips on Legal Help & Making Your Divorce More Affordable
If you’re now feeling disheartened because you can’t afford an attorney, there are some things you can do to make the divorce more affordable and as amicable as possible.
The first is to find a legal advocacy group. A group like National Family Solutions can help walk you through the process without the high fees of a private attorney. In addition, they can help you make the choices that will be in your best interest even after the raw emotion of the divorce has passed. You want to be sure that you don’t regret your divorce agreement for years and even decades to come.
Next, sit down with your spouse, with the help of a mediator, if necessary, to determine what you already agree on. You might be able to work out a parenting plan, for example, that lays out when each parent will have the children at his or her home. You also might agree on which spouse should take control of the marital home and who will be responsible for paying for piano classes and orthodontic bills for the children. If you agree on something, write it down.
Then, make a list of what you don’t agree on. Some divorcing couples cannot agree on a parenting plan at all; maybe both of you want full custody of the children. More commonly, there are only a few things they don’t agree on. Perhaps the husband wants the kids to attend a school that is halfway between the two homes and the wife prefers for them to stay at their current school, which is closer to her home. Or maybe there’s an argument over how long a stay-at-home spouse should continue to stay home with the children.
Once you know where your arguments are, let the legal professionals at your legal advocacy group help you determine what’s fair and equitable. This will save you money now and regret in the long run. Working together with your ex is a great start, but it’s important to have appropriate legal help so that neither of you unwittingly puts the other in an unfair position.