Yes, it is legally possible to get divorced without hiring an attorney. Typically, this will consist of finding and filling out the right paperwork with the Court, deciding with your partner how to divide up assets and debts, and whether there should be a maintenance payment from one to the other. If you have children, you also will have to decide decision-making, parenting time, and child support. After everything is resolved and is included in the paperwork, you would have the paperwork approved by a judge.
Seems simple, but, in my experience, people leave out too many things that should be considered, ultimately resulting in a situation that’s actually more expensive and emotionally damaging than if they had hired an attorney in the first place, especially if there are kids involved.
An Attorney Will Make Provisions for Future Possibilities
People who get divorced without an attorney usually choose to do so because it’s less expensive, and their relationship is amiable enough that they think they can agree on things relatively easily.
I usually get called in years down the line when the relationship isn’t nearly as amiable and one partner wants to do something the other doesn’t want. Unfortunately, this issue frequently isn’t addressed in the paperwork, such as one of the parties want to move the kids to a different state.
That’s when things get explosive.
Years ago, I was hired by a man who had three kids with his former wife. The two of them had previously gotten divorced on their own (no attorneys involved), but now their situation had changed: he had remarried, and she got a lucrative job offer in Texas. She wanted to take the kids with her to Austin, and my client didn’t want that to happen.
Since none of this was addressed in the divorce paperwork, they went to Court and had World War III. Each spent thousands and thousands of dollars fighting about whether or not the kids could go to Texas.
This turned into a very antagonistic fight. What had been a relatively amiable divorce resolution turned into an extremely challenging situation for everyone involved, including the kids. Therefore, their ability to deal with each other on virtually all other issues became highly contested, and in my opinion, none of this was in the children’s best interest.
If they had hired an attorney to draft the divorce agreement in the first place, provisions for the possibility of one parent wanting to move out of state would have been made and agreed upon in advance. The likelihood of this “war” would have been greatly reduced. Doesn’t it make sense to address issues while the parties are amiable?
Providing for Disagreements
In some cases, problems arise that are a little more immediate that a cross-country move.
A lot of people naturally jump to, “Let’s have joint decision-making,” when creating their own divorce agreement. On the surface, it makes sense that both parents would be involved in decision-making that has to do with the kids. The problem is that they don’t put anything in the agreement that says what will happen if they can’t agree.
An experienced attorney will always foresee this and include language about how to handle ties. While the Court can’t order arbitration without the parties’ agreement, the Court can order arbitration with the parties’ agreement. So, an attorney may discuss arbitration as a means of resolving disputes, the parties agree, and the parties have an easy way of “breaking ties”.
Without the arbitration provision, the parents file a motion, which requires attorney’s fees, and they get a hearing scheduled for 2-4 months down the road. When the hearing finally happens, a stranger — the judge — will decide the dispute, such as does the child get an inoculation. By that time, the kid might have already gotten the disease anyway.
It’s pretty easy to see that, if the parents had a divorce agreement that said they would go to arbitration over disagreements, the whole mess would have been avoided. It costs a lot less, too, involves fewer people, and issues get resolved more quickly.
This is something that any experienced attorney will do, but that people often forget when drafting their own divorce agreements.
Hire an Attorney if You’re Getting Divorced
In my opinion, you’ll always be better off if you hire an attorney to get divorced. Yes, it will cost more in the short run, but if you have kids, a comprehensive divorce agreement will be paramount to successfully navigating the world of co-parenting in as peaceful a way as possible. Additionally, if the parties are amiable and work together, the attorney’s fees should not be that significant.
If you’re getting ready for a divorce, call our office today at 303-449-1873 to schedule a complimentary consultation and find out if Barre Sakol is the right representative for your case.