Do You Need A Lawyer to Get a Divorce?
One side effect of the current sluggish economy is that many people who have been considering a divorce are looking for creative ways to move forward. A recent survey conducted by the American Bar Association Coalition for Justice confirms that fact and shows that the slow economy is causing an increasing number of people to attempt to represent themselves in a variety of legal matters, especially divorces.
Many couples are simply choosing to postpone their divorces and are waiting until there is more cash to work with. Postponing a divorce until there is some equity in the house, or a retirement account matures, or one or both spouses find new employment is not always a simple matter though. Sharing the same house, but sleeping in separate bedrooms is a common result. Spouses with younger children in the house may have to resort to working different shifts to share occupancy, but avoid close encounters while they wait for finances to improve.
Couples with a more urgent desire to finalize dissolution are the most likely candidates for self-representation in the courts today. In order to save the cost of having an attorney represent them in court, they often decide to take their own chances and state their own case before the judge. In many cases however, the advantage of saving on attorney fees can be negated by the many disadvantages of self-representation. The single largest disadvantage might be the fact that self-represented defendants often do a less-than-thorough job compared to the results they might have gotten through representation by a competent divorce attorney. In addition to the fact that self-representation can drain reduced court resources, it often ends with an unfavorable result for all parties involved too.
Despite the expense, attorneys know the laws and how to best argue them on behalf of their clients. Attorneys also know how to deal with the details of the court system and have experience with the judicial process. While it may be true that the majority of cases filed with the courts do not actually go to trial and are usually resolved outside of the courtroom, attorneys are undeniably the most qualified and knowledgeable people to handle negotiations between spouses in order to achieve a satisfactory outcome for all involved.
There are several options for people who can’t afford a lawyer though, the most obvious being free or low-cost legal advice services. The local courthouse is the best place to ask about legal aid resources in a given jurisdiction. There are also many online divorce document services that can assist people in gathering and filing their own paperwork for a lot less money than an attorney would charge for the same work. Document services cannot provide legal advice, but they can guide self-represented clients through the divorce process in less complicated cases. If there are specific issues that present problems, self-represented litigants also have the option of consulting with an attorney on a single issue instead of paying a lawyer for representation throughout an entire divorce.
Do you need a lawyer to get a divorce? Not absolutely, but it can be a real advantage and convenience if you can afford one. Self-representation can be a money-saving option but probably should not be done without at least some outside assistance from a source with knowledge of the laws and the courts. In that light, a one-time consultation with a competent attorney can often save more money than it costs.