Should You Hire an Attorney or Handle Your Own Divorce?

Should You Hire an Attorney or Handle Your Own Divorce?

Should You Hire an Attorney or Handle Your Own Divorce?

Once you and your spouse have decided to dissolve your marriage, the next step is figuring out how you will get divorced. You will need need to determine the following:

  • Whether you will handle your own divorce case through a DIY, or do it yourself method.
  • Whether you hope to use mediation with or without a lawyer to resolve disputed issues.
  • Whether you need to hire a lawyer for representation through the settlement or in court.

Our divorce attorney in Orlando offers these factors to consider when determining which path of divorce is right for your situation.

Will either spouse pursue an at-fault divorce?

A divorcing spouse must identify a reason for divorcing their partner upon filing. The District of Columbia and all states allow a spouse to file for a no-fault divorce, meaning neither partner is to blame for the dissolution of their marriage. In addition, spouses can cite irreconcilable differences, also known as the irremediable breakdown of a marriage. Depending on their area, these terms explain the same basic concept: a couple simply doesn't get along anymore, there is no chance of reconciling, and their marriage is broken beyond fixing. Therefore, there's no need to approve or identify a bad act or misconduct that caused the divorce. Some states also allow divorcing spouses to base their divorce on being separated for a specific period.

However, they can still file for a divorce in several states based on fault. This means that the reason for their divorce is that one spouse engaged in an activity that led to their marriage breaking down. These vary depending on the state, but the most common at-fault grounds for divorce include addiction to alcohol or drugs, abuse, abandonment, and adultery. In addition, at-fault divorce cases usually require more extended court resolutions because the divorcing spouse must provide admissible evidence to prove to the judge that the misconduct actually occurred and that it is the reason for dissolving the relationship. Before you file an at-fault-based divorce, you should speak to an experienced family law attorney in the area to make sure you meet requirements, you can prove your case, and if there is an advantage to pursuing the divorce that will outweigh your added stress, court costs, legal fees, and conflict with your ex.

Has your spouse hired a lawyer?

You should consult with a lawyer as soon as possible if you have been served with divorce paperwork from your spouse's attorney. Family law and divorce rules vary depending on your state, and you will need a lot of education to get up to speed on your local regulations and state laws. Family law is a very specialized field of law, and even a tiny mistake on divorce paperwork can cause unintended consequences or lifelong ramifications. Because the stakes are so personal and high in divorce situations, it is best not to try and argue your case against an experienced law attorney. Once your spouse has hired a lawyer, you should seek the advice of an experienced representative who can explain your responsibilities and rights, use specialized skills to advocate on your behalf, and obtain the best possible settlement for you and your family.

Are there children involved?

When divorcing spouses have minor children in the household, they must decide physical and legal child custody. Legal custody includes any rights for decision-making about your child's welfare, education, and health. In contrast, physical custody includes where a child will live and whether each parent spends equal time with the child or if one parent will be their primary parent. Parents also must agree on child support issues like who will pay child support, what amount of child support will be paid, and how often payments are made. All of these issues should be in your child's best interest and determined using your state's guidelines. If spouses cannot agree on issues like these, they will be forced to go through mediation to reach an agreement or go to trial and ask a judge to determine their problems.

Do you agree on alimony?

Alimony, also called spousal maintenance or spousal support depending on your state, is support paid from the higher-earning spouse to the lower-earning or unemployed spouse for a certain period. Various alimony types are used for covering different things. For example, temporary alimony is ordered during a divorce proceeding so that a lower-earning or unemployed spouse can meet their basic needs like shelter, food, and other essential expenses. This support case ends when a divorce is finalized, and a judge issues a different alimony order.

Permanent or long-term alimony is meant for long-term marriages where one spouse has increased financial ability for payment. In contrast, the other spouse has no earning or low earning capabilities. It intends to allow a supported spouse to remain as close to the standard of living while married as possible. The rules determining the duration and amount of alimony can vary between states. If you and your spouse cannot agree on this issue, you may consider mediation or hiring an attorney to proceed in court.

Do you agree on the division of property and debt?

Generally, any assets acquired between you and your spouse during the marriage are considered marital property in every state. Therefore, this property has to be divided in some way upon disillusion of your marriage. Marital property is termed community property in community property states and is equally divided between spouses. Marital property is equitably divided in equitable distribution states, which means that it is divided so that the court believes it is fair, which sometimes is not 50/50. Marital debts are divided similarly, but exceptions apply when one spouse wasted assets or incurred debts without consent that did not benefit the family. For example, if one spouse uses marital funds for taking trips, buying gifts for an affair, or gambling, judges generally will assign these debts to the spouse who incurred them and order that the other spouse is reimbursed.

If you and your partner have very little debt or property to divide, or if you agree on the marital property involved, its worth, and how to divide it, then you can likely handle this portion of your divorce without lawyers. However, if you cannot agree or feel like you need help deciding, you may contact a mediator or a lawyer to represent you in court proceedings.

Deciding whether to do it yourself.

If your divorce case is relatively simple, for example, your marriage did not have significant assets or minor children, and you and your spouse agree on essential issues, you may be able to have a DIY divorce. On the other hand, mediation may be a practical choice if you both disagree about any matters related to divorce. Mediation can be a good option even when divorcing spouses disagree on important issues. Sometimes spouses can work closely with a mediator and handle the case independently. In other situations, it makes more sense for a spouse to hire a lawyer who can do behind-the-scenes work to assist them through the process of mediation.

Another alternative to a traditional divorce process is collaborative divorce. This process is similar to mediation because the goal is to avoid court proceedings, but the process is handled differently. In collaborative divorce, spouses must both hire lawyers who are specifically trained in collaborative law and must legally commit to avoiding court proceedings. This process can be costly, so it's vital to do extensive research and educate yourself on the process before you follow through with it.
Of course, in many cases, spouses discover that there's no other option outside of hiring a lawyer and proceeding with a standard divorce process. For example, it's crucial for a spouse who has suffered domestic violence to have an attorney advocating on their behalf. In addition, contacting a divorce attorney in Orlando to protect your interest is vital when you believe your spouse is wasting marital funds or hiding assets.

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