Is it Worth Getting a Divorce Lawyer?
A divorce can take an emotional toll, even in marriages where both parties agree to end it. This type of divorce is called an “uncontested divorce.” In uncontested divorces, you might wonder if it’s worth getting a divorce lawyer. You might also wonder if you should get a lawyer if you have been married for only a short time or have limited assets or no children.
Even though both parties agree to separate or your situation seems uncomplicated, critical decisions still need to made. However, due to the emotions and history involved, it can be hard for people to think clearly or make sound decisions. You might find that you want advice so you avoid making a mistake.
An experienced family law attorney can help ensure you don’t work against yourself and that you meet all criteria and follow the law. Hiring an attorney, even if you and your spouse are amicable and agree, can be the difference between a swift, relatively painless divorce and one that drags out with seemingly endless paperwork and mistakes. These are just some of the reasons you might find it is worth it to get a divorce lawyer.
Do I Need a Divorce Lawyer if We Agree on Everything?
Why You Should Get a Lawyer for an Uncontested Divorce
Obtaining legal representation is valuable for anyone who is going through a divorce, because the outcome will affect you for the rest of your life. An experienced attorney will make sure you are protected at every step.
You’ll need a divorce lawyer, even if you agree on everything. In an uncontested divorce, an attorney can help you understand the legal process. It can be challenging to figure out Illinois divorce law, both in procedure and substance. Unless you already know the state laws and local rules, you’ll have a lot to learn to get up speed—on top of dealing with everything else.
Figuring out the complicated legal process can be confusing. It’s not always easy to stay on top of deadlines. Each step in the process takes time, effort, and energy and is filled with potential problems and pitfalls. Moreover, self-representation doesn’t mean that you’ll get special or easier treatment from a court. You’ll be held to the same standards as an attorney, even if you aren’t one.
Not only are there are lots of steps and paperwork involved, but there are a variety of laws you need to know, too. These include laws on spousal support, child support, child custody, and asset and debt division. Researching all the substantive requirements for divorce on your own will take a lot longer. It can also lead to costly mistakes and oversights. It is worth it to get a divorce lawyer when you consider what it may cost if you don’t. When you hire a lawyer, your lawyer can help you navigate the legal system and know what to expect, which can take some of the stress off your shoulders.
More importantly, an experienced attorney can also be useful at the following stages and with the following obstacles:
- Pre-divorce planning
- Unexpected conflicts
- Ensuring you’ve dealt with everything you need to
- Knowing all your options and alternatives, rights, and obligations
- Compiling and filing paperwork, and making sure it’s all legally adequate.
You Should Hire a Divorce Attorney to Help with Planning and All the Details
If you still wonder, is it worth getting a divorce lawyer, consider what an attorney can do for you throughout the process. A lot of work can be done before the divorce process begins, to set you up to make good decisions for your future. A lawyer can help you with this pre-planning process.
It’s also worth hiring an attorney to ensure you cover everything you need to. You have discussed a lot of things with your spouse beforehand, but have you planned for all possibilities? Couples think they agree on everything, without realizing what “everything” means. You might have overlooked some of the complexities of your situation that would change your agreement. A lawyer can help you figure out in advance what you need to work out to save yourself money and aggravation down the road.
A Divorce Lawyer Can Help You Plan for Custody and Support of Minor Children
When divorcing parents have children under 18, they will have to make countless decisions for their futures. Physical custody and child support are only two aspects that need to be discussed. Even if you agree on those, have you thought through all the contingencies? What if one of you wants to move? There are a lot of additional points for discussion, including the following:
- Visitation, including communication, changes, holidays, and special occasions
- Physical health decisions
- Mental health
- Health and medical insurance for the children
- Any medication management issues
- Steps to take in emergency situations
- Religious upbringing
- Paying for extracurricular activities
- Parenting ground rules
- Contributions to college funds
- Any changes that need to be made as your children age or hit different milestones.
Many details and considerations go into planning for minor children. It would be beneficial to hire a lawyer to cover all your bases.
A Divorce Lawyer Can Help You Plan Your Financial Future
Even if you don’t have children, there are other reasons why you need a divorce lawyer. Among them, you might have a lot of decisions to make regarding marital finances. You might have already agreed on whether to sell the marital home and what to do with the proceeds, or whether one of you will stay in it. You might also have discussed what type of lifestyle each of you can afford on your own after you separate. But, have you discussed the following:
- Who will be responsible for paying the taxes, insurance, and bills on the marital home? If you’re selling it, who will live in it while it’s on the market? Who is responsible for any repairs?
- Will either spouse be entitled to any amount of retirement funds, pension benefits, profit sharing plan, or 401k? What about any penalties for withdrawing money early?
- Will there be an agreed amount of spousal support, maintenance, or alimony? For how long?
- How will you divide the marital debts? What happens if the debt isn’t paid after divorce?
- What about life insurance? Will you change the beneficiary? What about the needs of any children? How do you address who pays the premiums? Can the owner borrow against the death benefit?
These are just some of the things that divorcing parties might overlook unless they’re guided by an attorney with experience. Discussing finances can get even more complicated if investment properties are involved and you don’t want to delve into these issues on your own.
A lawyer can also help ensure full disclosure of your spouse’s finances so that you know exactly what you’re dealing with. Without the help of an attorney, it’s up to you to determine whether the other party is being honest about finances. It might not be in your spouse’s best interests to come clean about everything, causing them to try to hide assets. As the saying goes, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Or, you might not really know what all the assets are worth. Maybe you both underestimated their value, and had you known how much something was really worth, you would have agreed to a different division.
Your attorney will ensure you get a complete picture of your spouse’s financial situation. You can’t make an informed decision of how to split assets and debts without a fair understanding of what’s available.
A Divorce Attorney Can Help Work Out Unexpected Disagreements
Many couples may find that they don’t actually agree on everything once they start looking at more details. Even a small disagreement can slow down the divorce process. The disagreement could also escalate and throw your uncontested divorce off track. It is worth getting a divorce lawyer so you can avoid those outcomes and secure the fastest possible divorce with the help of legal representation.
Working with a lawyer as a third party can be helpful. You can focus on the facts and issues at hand and not get overwhelmed by the person you’re negotiating with. The best divorce attorneys will understand the emotional effects of what you’re going through and will help you with difficult situations and conversations.
Divorce attorneys have seen it all and can help reassure you that you’re on the right track. This will help you feel better and more confident about the decisions you make. You want to do everything in your power to obtain the best possible result for you and your family.
You Should Hire a Divorce Lawyer to Do Your Paperwork
There are other reasons you need a divorce lawyer. You might think you have everything decided and agreed upon, but are you sure you’re getting a fair deal? Even if it seems fair to you, a lawyer can evaluate the agreement and make sure you aren’t getting shortchanged.
Even agreeing on everything in your divorce planning doesn’t change the fact that family law is a specialized field. You want to get it right the first time, to finish the process as quickly and simply as possible. A simple mistake or oversight in your paperwork can have unintended life-long consequences. It’s best not to try to take on the role of an experienced family law attorney yourself when the stakes are so high and personal.
A lawyer should read through all the documents to ensure they’re valid and legally sufficient, and that nothing is missing. A professional divorce attorney has dedicated a career to handling divorce paperwork and will know what to include and how to word things. This will be critical so the judge or court approves any agreement you make.
The last thing you want to happen is to you think you followed the correct procedure for your divorce and came up with a good agreement, only to find out that a step was missed, a term was overlooked, or your divorce was never properly finalized or concluded. Proceeding without a divorce lawyer, even in an uncontested divorce, can be very costly.
Is it Worth Getting a Divorce Lawyer?
Overview of the Reasons You Need an Attorney
It may be helpful to review the full list of reasons why hiring an attorney will benefit you. A divorce lawyer can help you:
- Prepare pre-divorce planning
- Cover every step in the legal process
- File all necessary paperwork
- Understand the state laws and local rules
- Navigate the legal system and know what to expect
- Address physical custody and child support
- Plan for marital finances, including:
- Debts and taxes
- Assets like property, retirement benefits, investments, and life insurance
- Provide a fair valuation of assets.
Do You Need a Divorce Lawyer if You Agree on Everything?
How Wolfe & Stec Can Help You If Your Divorce is Uncontested
Our team at Wolfe and Stec is knowledgeable in all family law matters and can help ensure you are protected in an uncontested divorce. We will make sure your divorce is fair as you face the other difficulties that come with divorcing.
Even if you think you agree on everything, or your situation seems uncomplicated, keep in mind that you can consult with an attorney at any time without committing to hire one. You can also use an attorney in many capacities without hiring one to handle the entire case, such as drafting paperwork, providing advice, or negotiating.