If you’ve made the decision to end your marriage, chances are there are countless questions running through your mind: Who will keep the house? How will custody work? How will you split up your assets? And, perhaps one of the biggest questions of all, should you hire a divorce lawyer?
The choice to “lawyer up” during divorce can be a very complex decision. Here we will break down some of the best – and worst – reasons to consider hiring a divorce lawyer. (And remember, you don’t have to retain a divorce lawyer and pay $5000 just to get reliable legal advice. Legal coaching is often a great option!)
First, the reasons why you SHOULD hire a divorce lawyer…
Your spouse sent you a settlement offer and you have some legal questions about it.
Anytime you are unsure about terms of a settlement offer or proposed divorce agreement you should seek the counsel of a divorce lawyer to ensure that you are fully aware of your rights to spousal support, retirement accounts and marital assets. For instance, if you are awarded an income-producing asset as part of your divorce agreement that income may move you into a higher tax bracket or affect whether or not you qualify for spousal support. Consulting with a divorce lawyer can help ensure that you know exactly what you are signing.
You need immediate court orders because your spouse has cut you off financially or won’t let you see the kids.
Whenever there is an emergency in your case and you need court intervention as soon as possible, it’s time to call a divorce lawyer. Look for a lawyer who knows the ins and outs of the court in your jurisdiction to give yourself the best chance of quickly getting in front of a judge. While you can request temporary orders without the help of a lawyer, it’s better not to leave these matters to chance.
You want to understand your best and worst-case scenarios before you attend mediation with your spouse.
Before you attend mediation with your spouse you should understand what your best case and worst-case outcomes from your divorce are. This can help you during the mediation process as you will be able to negotiate from a fully informed position, and you will know what your sticking points are and where you are willing to compromise. A divorce lawyer can advise you on these outcomes and help you plan your mediation strategy.
Your divorce is “stuck.”
Many times a divorce that seems to be progressing well suddenly becomes stuck. It could get stalled during the negotiation process, or perhaps there are some additional court forms you weren’t aware you need to complete. Whatever the reason, hiring a divorce lawyer at this point can help your case get “unstuck.”
Your divorce forms have been rejected by the court.
Imagine this: It was an uphill battle, but you and your spouse have successfully negotiated the terms of your divorce and signed your agreements. You submitted your divorce form to the court and now you can breathe a bit as you wait for the court to approve your forms. Then you get notice that the court has rejected your forms. Now what? Now is the time to hire a divorce lawyer to review your divorce forms and help you get them accepted by the court. It could be something as simple as an incomplete section on one form, or an incorrect signature, but an experienced lawyer will be able to find the error and get your case back on track…and get you on your way to your new life!
You need a divorce strategy and want to avoid costly mistakes.
Sometimes you need an expert in your corner, and that’s ok! Hiring a divorce lawyer can help you build a divorce strategy (i.e. what your goals are and how you will accomplish those goals) and to avoid mistakes that can derail your divorce. If you have a complex case, or your spouse is going to fight you every step of the way, hiring a divorce lawyer can be particularly beneficial.
Related: Book Your 15 Minute Strategy Call
You want to confirm whether you have a strong claim or defense in your case.
You know what you want out of your divorce and think you have a pretty good chance of getting your desired outcome. But, will a judge see your case the same way? Maybe. Maybe not. When it comes to examining your legal claims and defenses, it’s never a good idea to just “wing it.” Hiring or consulting with a lawyer in your area who understands the law and, better yet, has familiarity with the judge overseeing your case, can help place you in the best position to achieve your desired outcome.
You need a child support or spousal support calculation.
If you and your spouse have all the details of your divorce worked out, but still need to calculate child support or spousal support it may be time to hire a divorce lawyer. Each state has their own “formula” for calculating support, and the factors that go into determining a support amount can vary widely. Can you get a credit for child care expenses? Does it matter how many overnights the children have with you, or is child support calculated by the actual time the children spend with each parent? Does the length of your marriage matter when calculating spousal support? Hiring a divorce lawyer to assist you with these calculations can ensure that you are getting the support you deserve, or avoid overpaying on support.
And now, the worst reasons to hire a divorce lawyer…
Everyone you know hired a lawyer for their divorce.
If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you, too? Don’t answer that. The truth is, all divorces are not created equally and what worked for your friend/sister/co-worker’s divorces may not necessarily work for yours. Hiring a divorce lawyer because that is what everyone else is doing could mean that you end up spending a lot more on your divorce than is necessary.
You want revenge and you think a “bulldog” lawyer will help you get it.
Your ex cheated and now you want to exact your revenge. What better way to do that than hiring the most aggressive big-name lawyer in town, right? I hope you like spending lots of money! There is nothing wrong with talking to a lawyer about your divorce – particularly if you have significant questions that require legal analysis, or to develop a legal strategy – but seeking a lawyer just to get back at your ex can end up backfiring. Lawyers are trained to overthink and, unfortunately, that can lead to an amplification of even the most minor of issues, which can end up costing you thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees.
While revenge seems nice in the moment, ultimately it won’t help you move on – and hiring an aggressive attorney definitely won’t help you bring a peaceful conclusion to this chapter of your life.
You met a really nice “cheap” lawyer in the courthouse hallway.
I bet they told you they could get you everything you wanted out of the divorce, too. Chances are this lawyer is trying to sell you something you might not need, much like a used car salesman. Be wary.
“Nice” and “cheap” should not be the only reasons you hire a lawyer. Consider first if you have complex issues in your case that could use the expertise of a lawyer, or if you need legal advice or to develop a legal strategy. If you decide to hire a lawyer, do your homework and shop around. Look for a lawyer who will not just tell you what you want to hear (even though that’s nice – we get it!) and who works to minimize conflict, instead of enhancing it.
You need help understanding the value of a business interest/retirement asset/reimbursement claim.
Would you go to a hairstylist to get your car fixed? No, you would go to a mechanic – an expert in fixing cars. The same theory applies to your divorce. Lawyers are experts in the law, but that does not necessarily mean they are experts in valuing or understanding complex and nuanced assets. Instead, try seeking out a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst who is trained to value these types of assets and understand how they can (or can’t) be divided in a divorce.
You need emotional support.
Sure, your lawyer will listen and be there for you, but you’ll be paying in 6 min increments for them to give you the support a therapist is way more equipped to provide. It’s important to like your lawyer – heck you are sharing some of the most intimate details of your life with them and asking for advice that will have long-lasting implications. But don’t ask for more than they can provide or you can afford. Instead, save the legal stuff for your lawyer and seek a therapist or close friend to be your sounding board for emotional support. Your bank account will thank you.
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