There are many things to manage when going through a divorce. You must divide your assets, decide who will keep the marital home and determine child custody, if you share children.
Depending on your specific situation and relationship, a divorce can be relatively simple or incredibly complex. You may be wondering if hiring a divorce attorney is necessary.
Although parties can process a divorce on their own, every county has nuances. You may also think your case is simple, and you can access online documents and draft your own property settlement agreements. However, if an asset is overlooked, especially a retirement account, it is too late to undo the damage once a decree is entered.
Be careful, and at least consult with a family law attorney before you start to negotiate on your own, and seek an attorney’s review before signing any document. Should you wish to venture into doing it on your own, our office offers unbundled services to walk you through the process, and check your documents at a reasonable price.
Here are some situations where hiring an attorney is not just a good idea, but a must.
Your soon-to-be ex hires an attorney
If your former partner hires an attorney, you should hire an attorney as well. Pennsylvania is an equitable division state, which means when you divorce, your marital assets are divided equitably, though not necessarily evenly. Your former spouse’s attorney will fight to get him or her the biggest piece of your shared assets possible. If you do not hire an attorney, you will have no one representing your best interests in the negotiation process. You may wind up with a smaller settlement as a result.
You think your former partner is hiding assets
If you suspect your ex is not being honest about his or her finances, you should hire an attorney to investigate. A family law attorney has experience uncovering hidden assets. They know the signs to look for and how to investigate financial records. A spouse who is being dishonest about finances may also be trying to hide other behavior an attorney can uncover.
You are considering a collaborative divorce
One form of alternative dispute resolution is a collaborative law divorce. In a collaborative law divorce, both partners hire an attorney. Then you sign an agreement that if you cannot come to a compromise, you both hire new attorneys to go to court. A collaborative divorce encourages both sides to come together and compromise, and it is often quicker and less expensive than settling a divorce in court.
There is a history of abuse or substance abuse
If your partner abused you, either physically or emotionally, hire an attorney to represent you during a divorce. With violence or a power imbalance, you should not try to negotiate the details of a divorce. An attorney will protect your best interests and ensure your former partner does not bully you into making an unfair divorce agreement.
Additionally, if your soon-to-be ex has a history of substance abuse, you will want to protect your finances and your children from this unhealthy behavior. An attorney can help you do that.
You are confused or unsure about anything
If you and your former partner are on good terms, you may decide to come to an agreement about the terms of the divorce together. Settling a divorce this way can be a good option, particularly if you do not have many assets to split or children. However, it may be a good idea to have an attorney review your agreement before you sign off on anything. Hiring a consulting attorney is relatively inexpensive, and it ensures your interests are sufficiently protected. You should consider doing this if there is anything about the agreement that you are confused or unsure about. An attorney can review your agreement and advise you of any legal issues or anything that is unfair to you.
Not everyone needs to hire an attorney when they divorce, but going forward without guidance is risky business. However, certain situations make hiring an attorney necessary to protect your interests and ensure you receive what is fair.