When deciding to get divorced, one of the first questions many people have is, “Do I need an attorney to get a divorce?” The answer is not the same for every person; some people are able to divorce without an attorney, while others would benefit from legal representation.
In what circumstances can you get divorced without an attorney?
In a divorce with simple circumstances, such as the following, finalizing a divorce without an attorney is generally possible:
- Both parties are willing to finalize the divorce.
- The marriage was short in duration.
- There are no minor children.
- There are no assets or debts to divide.
- There is a minimal amount of assets and debts to divide, and both spouses agree completely on the division of the same.
In what circumstances do you need an attorney to get divorced?
The more complicated the dissolution of a marriage will be, the more likely an attorney will need to be involved. Consider if any of the following statements apply to your marriage, and if they do, schedule a consultation with a lawyer:
- You are seeking an annulment.
- Your spouse refuses to finalize the divorce.
- The date of separation is unclear due to attempts to reconcile.
- Your spouse is incarcerated or otherwise incapacitated.
- Custody and visitation are contested.
- Spousal support or child support is contested.
- There are significant assets or debts to divide that was acquired during the marriage.
- Your spouse has committed marital waste by spending marital funds on unnecessary expenses unrelated to the marriage.
- Property acquired prior to the marriage, which would be considered separate property, is contested and an argument is being made that it became marital property during the marriage.
If your spouse got an attorney, does that mean you need one too?
If one spouse obtains an attorney to represent their interests, the other spouse has two options: they may choose to be pros, or represent their own interests, or they may choose to obtain the legal representation of their own.
Representing yourself as a pro se party has the potential benefit of saving legal fees because your spouse will be the one solely incurring legal fees to finalize the divorce unless you agree to contribute or are ordered to contribute by the court.
However, if you believe that your spouse is being dishonest or unfair, having your own attorney can ensure that your interests are defended throughout the divorce.
Can you use the same attorney as your spouse for the divorce?
Attorneys must run a conflict of interest check before consulting with or agreeing to represent any individual, which means if your name or information is associated with an individual an attorney consulted with or represented, they would not be able to represent you ethically. Your husband’s attorney offering you legal advice or representation is considered a conflict of interest because they have worked on your husband’s case and argued for his interests.
In some contested divorce cases, parties may choose to mediate with an attorney who offers mediation services. The attorney has an obligation to remain neutral during the mediation process and therefore cannot represent either party individually. Once mediation is completed the parties will need to file for divorce. The parties cannot file for divorce jointly; one party must file as the Plaintiff to initiate the divorce, necessitating another attorney to finalize the divorce.
What can an attorney do for you during the divorce process?
An attorney will have the knowledge necessary to ensure that your best interests are upheld throughout the dissolution of the marriage. If you receive an offer from your spouse’s attorney and are unsure if it is fair, find an attorney and schedule a consultation to get their opinion on what has been offered.
While some people do choose to file for divorce independently without legal representation, they may file something incorrectly. These mistakes may create more work to be done and or may cause the divorce to take longer to finalize. An attorney can help remedy these mistakes and efficiently finalize the divorce.
How do you find an attorney?
You would begin with an internet search for the type of lawyer you need and the area you need them to practice in. For example, if you were getting divorced in Columbus, Ohio, you would search for “divorce lawyers in Columbus Ohio”.
Can you use a lawyer in another state?
A lawyer who is barred and practices in the state in which you intend to become divorced is who should be hired to finalize your divorce.
A divorce lawyer who actively practices in another state, while still knowledgeable, would not be able to provide accurate advice because each state has different laws and procedures to finalize a divorce.
For example, someone who is being divorced in Columbus, Ohio would need to consult with divorce lawyers in Columbus Ohio to ensure their divorce was processed according to the laws there.
Ideally, a lawyer who practices in the same county that you are being divorced in is the best choice. They will know the specific practices of that county, making the divorce more efficient. Legal fees may also be lower since they would not have to travel as far to attend Court hearings or file documents at the county courthouse.
Uncontested divorces wherein parties are in complete agreement and are on good terms often may be filed without an attorney successfully if the spouses carefully follow their local laws and procedures.
Contested divorces wherein parties are not in agreement and are not on good terms most benefit from the involvement of an attorney.
If you are unsure if you need an attorney to get divorced, it is best to err on the side of caution and obtain legal representation for yourself.