Callers to my office ask this question pretty regularly. People seem confused about when and whether they need a lawyer to help them through their divorce. This is a fair question, given the proliferation of online sources for legal forms, documents, and information. There are lots of places to research your questions, but you also risk “information overload.” What if different websites seem reputable, but give conflicting information?
The first thing to remember if you research divorce law on your own is that divorce and family law issues are governed by state laws. So while general information might be a good place to start, focus your research on your state’s law. An article or blog post about divorce procedures in Nevada will not be very helpful in assessing your North Carolina divorce case.
In some cases, the spouses can certainly negotiate a settlement between themselves, without the input of lawyers. When is this possible? It truly depends on each individual case, but generally:
- The shorter the marriage, the easier it may be to handle alone, because alimony is less likely to be an issue.
- Few assets and no real estate holdings make it easier to split up without lawyers, because there is less physical “stuff” to fight over.
- When there are no children involved, and thus no custody and child support issues involved, you may be able to handle things yourself.
- If you and your spouse are friendly and cooperative enough to negotiate fairly between each other, then you may not need to involve lawyers.
If any ONE of the statements above does not apply to your case, however, then you would be wise to at least consult with a lawyer. The more complicated your situation is, the more likely you are to need legal guidance and representation. Ask yourself whether hiring a lawyer would add value to your case — would the financial, time, or peace of mind benefits outweigh what you spend on a lawyer? When you have children, large assets, retirement savings, or own your own business, the answer is likely “yes.”