Do I need a lawyer for my divorce?


It’s bad enough you’re going through a divorce, which feels like it’s turning your life upside down financially. Now you have to think about whether you should invest in a lawyer?

Whether you need a lawyer for your divorce depends on the stakes and complexity of your case. Generally, the more there is at stake on the issues of support, asset/debt division, or custody of your children, the more sense it makes to invest in representation.

Like other decisions we make in life, the higher the risk, the more sense it makes to invest in insurance and security.

Where do you fall on the risk spectrum?

On one end of the risk spectrum is a couple that’s been married for less than a year, they have similar earnings, few assets, and they didn’t buy any assets of significant value while they were together. It’s highly unlikely that an attorney is going to add any value to this situation. Perhaps one of the parties can hire an attorney to draft the filing documents. But this fact pattern doesn’t require much analysis. Paying a lawyer significant amounts of money under these circumstances doesn’t make sense.

However, on the other end of the spectrum, there’s a couple that’s been married for 20 years, they have assets of significant value, including a home and retirement, they have children, and one spouse earns considerably more than the other. Trying to navigate a case like this without representation carries significant risk.

And there’s everything in between. The important point is that the more there is on the line on the issues of finances, assets, custody, and parenting time, the more sense it makes to get some guidance from a reliable lawyer. The farther away you are form the first scenario in which there’s a short-term marriage, no kids, and few assets, the higher your risk.

Another point to consider is that it’s difficult—usually impossible—to undo what’s happened in family court. So making a mistake while handling your own case sometimes causes irreparable harm. Some people try to save money by handling the case themselves, and think that if it doesn’t go well, they can hire an attorney to fix it. That doesn’t work. If you make a mistake that results in an unfavorable order or ruling, although some aspects of a court order are modifiable, you’re at significant risk of being stuck with what you have as judges typically don’t like to change their minds on an issue.

The key is to take some time at the outset to determine in advance whether you need a lawyer. An effective way to do that is to invest in an assessment. An assessment with a reliable divorce lawyer will land you the information you need to determine your true risk level, and will better help you assess whether you actually need to hire one for the process.

Some attorneys offer free “consultations,” which are usually short and salesy. But you should invest in a more detailed analysis so you can be in a better position to decide whether you’ll benefit from further legal guidance.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.