Do I Need a Lawyer to Get a Divorce?
While you are not legally required to work with a lawyer when filing for divorce in Texas, it is always recommended. The divorce process can be complicated, and failure to adhere to court procedures can result in delays, not to mention the risks to your property rights, custody rights, and more. Even if you have a fairly straightforward situation and you and your former partner currently agree on all divorce matters, it is in your best interests to work with an attorney.
Below we look at the two largest risks associated with a DIY divorce: finances and custody. Keep reading to learn more.
Filing for divorce is an incredibly difficult decision, and many people want the process over as quickly as possible. Consequently, they think that forgoing the help of an attorney will save them time and money. However, it is more likely to be the opposite. In their haste to finalize their divorce, a person may hastily agree to divorce terms that are not in their best interests or which will not hold up when taken to court for approval. Making mistakes on important court documents and not following the correct procedure is also common. This can result in a significant financial loss and needing to re-file with the help of a lawyer.
Financial issues that must be dealt with during a divorce include:
- Shared property
- Shared debts
- Bank accounts
- Investment portfolios
- Retirement accounts
- Spousal support or alimony
It is also important to remember that emotions and feelings will fluctuate throughout the divorce process. While you and your spouse may be on the same page now regarding these important financial matters, things may change. For example, one party may initially agree to provide a certain amount of financial support to the other spouse and then, at the last minute, change their mind, sending you back to square one. Many people feel blindsided when their former spouse changes their mind on an important settlement issue and do not know how to respond. You want to avoid putting yourself in this position.
When that happens, having an attorney by your side is invaluable. Your lawyer can help you negotiate with your former spouse or represent you in mediation. They can also draw on their experience to help guide you throughout the divorce process, helping you respond to challenges as they arise. Your attorney can also use their resources and knowledge to help you thoughtfully consider all aspects of your divorce, including anticipating potential problems you may not be aware of.
Hidden Assets & Dissipation of Assets
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for one spouse to begrudge the other their fair share of marital assets. In these cases, some people make the bad decision to hide assets from their spouse or to dissipate marital assets to avoid having to share them intentionally. This is more likely to happen in cases where there is a lot of anger or an inability to communicate and get along.
Both hiding assets and dissipation of assets is unacceptable in Texas (not to mention unethical). When this happens during a DIY divorce, the spouse being harmed may be totally unaware it is happening or may not have the resources to fight back. The financial harm that results from one spouse hiding or dissipating assets can be ruinous.
An experienced lawyer can help you fight back when this happens. They will also have the resources needed to help you investigate the matter and hold your spouse responsible for their actions.
Child Custody & Support Risks
Another serious risk when trying to divorce without the help of an attorney is child custody. Again, many people seek a DIY divorce because they think they are on the same page as their former partner regarding important matters, like custody and child support. However, feelings and opinions often change when it comes to actually filing your custody paperwork. There may also be issues that you do not consider until it is too late.
While you may initially agree to a specific custody split, your child’s other parent may suddenly have a change of heart. For example, you may both agree that the children will stay with one parent during the week and the other parent during the weekends. But then, one parent decides they want a true 50/50 split. What do you do when this happens? Having a lawyer is particularly beneficial in situations like these.
Common custody and child support issues include:
- Equitable time with each parent
- Childcare and/or daycare expenses
- The child’s educational and extracurricular needs
- Special or medical needs of the children
- Special or medical needs of the parents
- Where the children will live vs. where the parents will live
- How the parents’ work schedules impact a visitation schedule
While the courts must approve all custody and child support orders, an approved order does not mean that it is going to work well for the children, parents, or the family. The courts do their very best to protect the best interests of the children involved, but they are not members of your family, and they do not have full insight into your family dynamic. Working with an attorney can help ensure that you and your family reach the custody, visitation, and support agreements that will truly benefit and support your children.
How to Choose the Right Lawyer for You
Another reason some people initially try to file their own divorce is that the prospect of finding a lawyer is intimidating. The divorce process alone can be isolating and overwhelming and having to reach out to different law firms and find an attorney to represent you can be daunting. You may also feel pressured to forego legal representation by your spouse. Do not let this stop you.
At Hunt Law Firm, PLLC, we have been helping clients through the divorce process for years. As a law firm, our goal is to provide the compassionate, strong legal representation that makes clients feel supported and confident. To schedule a consultation with an experienced lawyer, send us a message online.