Do you need to hire a divorce lawyer?
On TV and in the movies, divorce usually involves both parties and their lawyers slugging it out or settling things in court. This does not have to be the case. The details of every divorce case are different. Depending on your unique situation, you may or may not need to hire a divorce lawyer. Whether you should hire a divorce lawyer or not depends on a number of factors, such as the type of divorce you are getting and the value of your assets.
Should You Hire a Divorce Lawyer?
The type of divorce you have can impact whether and to what extent you need a lawyer’s help.
1. Will Your Divorce be Contested or Uncontested?
One way to categorize divorce cases is to classify them as contested or uncontested.
In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse both want a divorce and agree on the desired terms of the divorce. This means you agree as to who should get to keep which property, how child custody should be handled, who gets visitation and when, and more. Although you can do this on your own, you may want to ask a lawyer to review the agreement before you sign. This can help you avoid reaching an agreement that is not in your best interest.
In an uncontested divorce, you or your spouse will have to file for divorce. The process is then a matter of the two of you putting your terms in writing. While hiring a lawyer to assist you in complying with court deadlines and filing papers is certainly an option, you can also choose to do this on your own.
In a contested divorce there is typically at least one issue that spouses do not agree upon. They may disagree about how to divide one or more assets. Maybe one spouse is resisting divorce completely and refuses to discuss terms.
A contested divorce involves negotiations between you and your spouse. You may even have to present your cases in front of a judge. If you and your spouse are getting a contested divorce, you should hire a divorce lawyer. A lawyer will know what your rights are in your specific situation and can help you reach the best possible agreement with your spouse.
2. Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce
Another reason a divorce may be contested is because one spouse wants to prove fault grounds for the divorce. Most divorces are no-fault; you don’t have to explain the reason for your divorce. But a fault divorce occurs when one spouse proves that the marriage fell apart because of the actions of the other spouse. Reasons justifying a fault divorce vary by state but often include things like cheating, cruelty, or abandonment.
If you or your spouse intends to prove fault grounds, you should get a lawyer. Your lawyer can help you support your claim with evidence if you are proving fault grounds. If your spouse wants to establish that the divorce is your fault, a lawyer can help you defend against their claim.
When You May Need to Hire a Divorce Lawyer
There are a few additional situations in which you should hire a divorce lawyer. These situations can occur whether or not your divorce is contested:
- You and your spouse have high-value assets that must be divided;
- There are children from your marriage to your spouse;
- You or your spouse owns a business; or
- Your spouse has hired an attorney.
If your spouse hires an attorney, you should also seriously consider hiring an attorney to avoid any disadvantage. In addition, if you and your spouse do not have a good relationship and you think there is a possibility that an uncontested divorce can quickly develop into a series of difficult issues, it is a good idea to talk to an attorney.
Angela Stout has practiced law since 2007, with an emphasis on representing clients in family law matters including contested custody disputes and high-asset divorce suits with complex property issues. She earned her Juris Doctorate degree from South Texas College of Law and is Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. www.divorcelawyerhouston.pro