Amy writes, “Do I need a divorce lawyer or can I represent myself?” After 30 years of marriage her husband wants a divorce, which begs the questions: Do you need a divorce lawyer to handle your divorce case? Why? When should you hire a divorce lawyer, and when is it okay to get a do-it-yourself divorce with or without the help of divorce books or online divorce forms? Divorce laws are different in each state, and while you can get a divorce without a lawyer, doing so can be very risky if you don’t know what you are doing.
One of the biggest mistakes women (and men) make in matters of divorce is deciding not to hire an attorney when needed, or opting to share the same lawyer in an understandable yet potentially dangerous effort to cut costs. If you are getting a divorce after 15, 20 or 30 years of marriage or less, hiring a good divorce lawyer can help you avoid the all-too common divorce mistakes that can lead you into personal and financial ruin.
Reasons to Hire a Divorce Lawyer
The old saying, a man (or woman) who acts as his own attorney has a fool for a client, couldn’t be more true in many divorce cases. Even though it is not required by law to hire a divorce lawyer, there are several reasons why hiring an attorney is recommended for divorcing couples, especially those with minor children.
If you have limited or no assets to divide, no children or dependents that require court administered decisions about child custody, child support, visitation, property division, spousal support or alimony, getting a do-it-yourself divorce (DIY) using self-help resources to file your divorce pro se may be an effective way of reducing the cost of getting divorced. But, if your spouse has hired an attorney or is planning to, get yourself your own lawyer a.s.a.p.
The divorce process can be very complicated, so if you don’t know your rights or how your state laws may affect the outcome of your divorce, you would be wise to find a good divorce lawyer to protect your interests and those of your children. Divorce is a time in your life when ignorance is not bliss, and if you don’t do what is necessary to protect yourself throughout the entire process, you’ll end up feeling as though you were taken advantage of and feeling like a victim of the court system.
Common Divorce Mistakes
Unfortunately, many divorce cases turn into a virtual war zone, with false accusations being thrown back and forth by using what is commonly referred to as dirty divorce tricks. Angry, controlling, vindictive men, women and mean divorce lawyers have been known to use dirty tactics, schemes and sneaky games in order to gain an unfair advantage over their soon-to-be ex with a “win at all costs” mindset.
Nasty, dirty tricks are especially used in divorce cases involving young children where child custody, child support and visitation are at stake. If your lawyer or someone you know recommends using any number of dirty tricks in your divorce proceedings, do not under any circumstances play along with such vicious and underhanded tactics. The mental and emotional damage done to children by these methods can last a lifetime, causing your children to grow up resenting you for putting them through such a hostile divorce.
If you have already filed for divorce or are planning to file for divorce from your husband (or wife), it’s important that you carefully and calmly prepare for divorce and that includes putting aside the anger, animosity, frustration or hatred for your spouse in order to think clearly and rationally.
Get your paperwork in order and do your homework by researching the divorce laws in your state. Make copies of all financial documents including debts and assets, bank accounts, property you own and any investments (pension plans, insurance and stock options). Also make a complete and detailed list of the reasons why your marriage is over and why you wish to be granted a divorce, and any special considerations you may want to request from the judge deciding on your case.
Parental Alienation, also known as Hostile Aggressive Parenting, is a serious and all-too-common mistake made in many divorces involving children, often with tragic consequences. Learn and know the signs of parental alienation and act quickly to resolve problematic issues that may arise, preferably with the help of a skilled divorce lawyer.
Avoid using any and all parental alienation tactics that family or friends may suggest to you, or suggested dirty tricks found online. When telling your children about your divorce, never say anything negative about your husband or wife, and don’t make up vicious lies about their father or mother in a sick and perverted attempt to “win” a bitter divorce case.
To your kids, the person you are talking about is their Mom or Dad, whom they love. Trying to alienate your children from their other parent by making false or unjustified accusations and derogatory comments is nothing short of child abuse, depriving children of their right to be loved and shown love by both parents equally.
If you are going through a divorce or are considering divorce, do not use your children as pawns in your divorce proceedings. While children need to know some things about the divorce, kids don’t need to know all the details and they certainly should never be made to feel as though they have to choose between their parents. When discussing or fighting about the details of the divorce or decisions that are being made, keep them private and out of earshot from your children.
Keep in mind, the divorce lawyer is not the one getting divorced, you are. Know your rights under the law within your state. Your attorney works for you, and you own the responsibility of what ultimately happens in your divorce, good or bad. If you hire an attorney that you don’t feel is looking out for your best interests, or is giving you bad advice, fire your attorney and get another one. If you can’t afford a divorce lawyer, find local volunteer divorce lawyers in your area to help protect you, your kids and your financial future.
Divorce Support Groups
There are many online divorce support groups for women, men and children, and many can be found in your local area. DivorceCare is a separation and divorce recovery support group for women, men and children, with meetings throughout the U.S., Canada and other countries. Men and fathers can also search online for “mens divorce support groups” for expert help in the recovery process following divorce. Check your local listings for divorce support groups for children, such as Parents Without Partners, that hold meetings in your area.
Amy (not her real name), the woman getting divorced after 30 years of marriage mentioned at the outset of this article, ultimately decided to hire a divorce lawyer. She is also considering mediation, which can save a lot of money in attorney fees. Fortunately for her, there are no minor aged children from the marriage to fight over, but since her soon-to-be ex husband doesn’t appear to want to play nice and has been known to be quite abusive, she decided to consult with an attorney to ensure her rights are protected.
Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. This is article is provided for informational purposes only. This article is not offered as, nor is it to be construed as legal advice. To obtain specific legal advice pertaining to your case, consult an attorney licensed to practice law in your state.