Do I Still Need a Lawyer if We Agree on Everything?
If you and your spouse have decided to get a divorce, you are likely running through the steps necessary to file the claim—gathering financial records, determining custody arrangements and hiring a divorce attorney. But what if you and your spouse are planning an amicable divorce? Do you still need to hire a divorce attorney?
The answer depends on your specific situation. At the end of the day, you and your spouse will have to file paperwork, reach financial agreements, and present your agreements to a judge. If any of these steps seem overwhelming, then hiring a divorce attorney can help smooth out the process. However, if you and your spouse are able to work together to determine the split of assets and custody, then you could forgo the attorney and pursue an “uncontested divorce.”
In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse must reach firm agreements regarding:
- Amount of child and spousal support
- Division of assets
- Division of debts
- Custody schedules
Once you’ve come to these decisions, you will file a “divorce settlement agreement” in court. This paperwork is legally binding, approved by a judge and details every agreement you’ve made with your spouse. Many uncontested divorces can happen exclusively outside of the courtroom; however, some states require a court appearance if minor children are involved in the arrangements.
Uncontested divorces usually work well for couples that share few assets and have no minor children. They also work well for couples who are independently self-sustaining and have been married for less than five years.
Should We Hire Anyone?
While you will be able to pursue an uncontested divorce without the help of an attorney, you may still want to hire someone who can ensure the divorce process moves smoothly. Some couples decide to hire a mediator to oversee discussions about asset and custody distribution. Others hire an actuary to appraise any assets or retirement benefits.
What Are the Pros of an Uncontested Divorce?
The biggest benefit of an uncontested divorce is the cost. If no attorney or other parties are involved, the couple only has to pay the court filing fees before the divorce is finalized. Even if an attorney is brought in to look over the paperwork, their fees can remain on the low end since they won’t be involved in any court proceedings. Additionally, couples pursuing an uncontested divorce can avoid the potential ugliness of court arguments. This will greatly speed up the divorce process.
Even if you choose not to hire an attorney for your divorce proceedings, you should still look into consulting with a lawyer,before submitting your paperwork to the courts. This second set of eyes will help the process run smoothly once it’s in the judge’s hands.