Yes and no. If you haven’t been married for long, you don’t have kids, you don’t have much debt or many assets to distribute, and you and your spouse are able to work everything out on our own, then yes, you might be able to manage without a lawyer. And while technically speaking court clerks aren’t allowed to give you any legal information, they can still tell you where to file various papers. Plus, with the increasing shift towards pro se divorce, many state government websites have the forms you’ll need on their website. In addition to that, you may be able to find one of those “divorce kits” published by legal publishers (of course, you’ll have to do all of the paperwork yourself).
However, if you have kids, if you have complex assets – which can be simply a house, a pension plan, or a retirement plan – and if you and your spouse can amicably agree on how to divide assets or manage support, then you’re advised to hire a lawyer – at least for a consultation. Frankly, even if you and your spouse can agree on everything and have drafted an agreement, it still makes sense to show it to a lawyer and get feedback. And because many lawyers offer “unbundled” services (i.e. you pay for the specific services you want), you can get this feedback for a relatively affordable price.
Here’s a cautionary tale that highlights how wise it can be to get legal counsel even if things with your spouse seem “okay” (at least for now). A young father was worried that his wife, who was to receive custody of their son, could leave with the child and move anywhere across the country. This father checked with a lawyer and discovered that adding a stipulation in the agreement would prevent his wife from moving more than 75 miles away (unless he moved first). Simply by consulting with a lawyer, this young man got the peace of mind he needed before a potential problem emerged. For him, it was a smart investment.
By Josh D. Simon