When you decide to get a divorce, this may be the first question you need to answer. According to an article on Nolo.com, “Divorce: Do You Need a Lawyer?” the answer depends on various factors, “including the personalities of the people involved, the importance of what’s at stake, and sometimes, on how much you rely on lawyers and courts to resolve troublesome issues. In general, the more work your attorney does and the more you go to court, the higher the financial and emotional toll.”
There are many articles extolling the importance of retaining a lawyer, often one that specializes in divorce in order to protect your rights in the legal process. In her article, “Do I Need a Divorce Attorney?” Cathy Meyer, a Divorce Support Expert, outlines the benefits of hiring a divorce attorney. A divorce attorney:
- knows divorce law and will be up-to-date on changes in the law.
- knows how and when to file documents with the court.
- has experience negotiating issues.
- knows local judges and is familiar with local court procedures.
She goes on to outline the benefits of filing Pro Se (on your own behalf). Benefits include:
- saving the cost of hiring a divorce attorney.
- retaining more control over your case.
- awareness of what has been filed with the court.
In the end, Ms. Meyer suggests you hire an attorney if you have the financial resources to save time and ease the stress. But also consider the fact that a litigated divorce cost can run into thousands of dollars. The average litigated divorce estimate falls between $15,000 and $20,000.
A 2012 Pitney-Bowes article states the average savings account balance in the U.S. is less than $6,000, while a Bankrate article says “Fewer than one in four Americans have enough money in their savings account to cover at least six months of expenses … Meanwhile, 50% of those surveyed have less than a three-month cushion and 27% had no savings at all.”
If you look at the average amount American families have saved, it is easy to see why many couples are looking for less expensive ways to get divorced. The good news is there are many more options to choose from today than there ever have been, it’s just a matter of finding the right one for you.
If you wish to explore further, the basic divorce options are as follows:
Regardless of which route you take, you should be prepared. Not only by researching and learning what costs are involved with each option, but knowing what risks you may be taking in each specific choice. Doing research means you need to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
Are there added complications in your case, such as spouses living in different states or one or both members in the military? Do you know what the tax consequences are going to be? Kristine Rushing, Fiscal Architect at Wevorce, tackles the difficult topic of divorce and taxes in her series of articles: “Divorce and Taxes – Part I: Filing Status and Dependents”; “Divorce and Taxes – Part II: Child-Related Issues & Alimony”; and “Divorce and Taxes – Part III: Asset Division.”
You cannot be too prepared. Become familiar with some terms that may be new to you like divorce settlement agreement, equitable distribution, marital assets and debts or no-fault divorce. But don’t worry, you can easily find many answers to your questions at sites such as life.wevorce.com and come to understand the complexities of divorce and how best to plan your family’s future. You can always hire a knowledgeable family law attorney, but you still need to know what steps they are taking and why. Remember it’s your life, not theirs.
Take your time now so you make an informed choice. Nothing about divorce is easy. But an amicable divorce can pay-off in the long run, financially and emotionally. For you, your soon-to-be-ex, and most of all, your children.