Deciding if you need an attorney, and choosing the one that’s right for you, is one of the most important divorce decisions you’ll make. Having the wrong representation can drive up legal fees, make a divorce unnecessarily antagonistic, or leave you vulnerable. The following guidelines will help you determine what kind of lawyer is best for you, or if you need one at all.
When You May Not Need an Attorney
Couples with short-term marriages, no significant marital assets, and no children, may be able to complete the divorce process without an attorney. Example: you rent an apartment, have separate checking accounts, and agree to divvy up furniture. Simple dissolutions can be handled publicly available divorce forms, or with a mediator. Although this is the least expensive way to divorce, you should only attempt to go lawyer-free if you and your spouse are in agreement and have basically nothing to haggle over.
When You Need An Attorney
If you and your spouse share property and children, you will each want to consult and/or retain legal representation. How much you involve your attorney will depend on different factors.
- Consulting with an attorney. If your divorce is fairly simple, you may only need to consult with a lawyer a few times. In this scenario, an attorney will help you determine what documents you’ll need, advise you on your rights, and review your final judgment. You may or may not have your attorney present during mediation to make sure you’re making informed decisions. Your mediator (who may also be an attorney) will facilitate the mediation, and your attorney will be on hand to support the process.
- Retaining an Attorney. If you and your spouse disagree on the division of marital property, and allocation of custody, you will probably want to retain an attorney. Usually, this means that you pay a sum up front, and are charged an hourly rate if the time your attorney spends on your divorce exceeds the retainer. In this scenario, your attorney will be involved in every step of the process.
Do You Need An Aggressive Attorney?
Your attorney’s style will greatly influence the course of your divorce. As a rule of thumb, your attorney should assert only as much force as needed. For instance, if you and your spouse are in agreement on most issues, you do not need a shark attorney! A super-aggressive lawyer can hike up legal fees by creating unnecessary melodrama. You may fare better (and spend less) with an attorney who settles most cases out of court, whether through mediation, collaborative divorce, or a conference room. Ready to take the next step in finding the best attorney for you? Read our blog: 3 Steps to Choosing the Right Divorce Lawyer If you would like more information about your divorce or any other area of family law, please contact us today to schedule your free and confidential consultation with one of our qualified and compassionate family law attorneys. Take the first step towards securing your future: 888-888-0919.