Sure, you can go to court without a lawyer, just like you could do your own root canal. It’s a good idea to go to court yourself only if you know the divorce laws of your state and have enough experience in helping friends and relations out with their divorce, alimony, child custody, child support, and other such family law matters.
But if you do not know divorce laws, and if you decide not to hire a lawyer for your divorce, please know that you will likely mess up your case, and you’ll likely mess up dividing marital property, accurately calculating alimony and child support, creating a parenting plan, deciding on child custody matters and visitation rights, and more.
In simpler terms, if you head to the courts without a lawyer, you are putting your financial, physical, and mental health at great risk. You may save a couple of thousand bucks on legal fees but end up sacrificing extra hundreds of thousands of dollars in property distribution, child support, and alimony – and maybe harm your health in the process.
Then, after you have gotten gamed in the courts – perhaps because the other spouse acted rationally and hired an experienced family law attorney – you may decide to hire a lawyer and pay his fees and hope that he salvages whatever remains of your case.
Working without a family law attorney, in most divorce cases, is a huge risk and a bad idea, and we urge you not to do that.
With that said, there may be cases wherein the conditions are such that you can consider completing your divorce without hiring a lawyer.
Situations that Suggest You Can Skip Hiring a Lawyer (DIY Divorce)
- Both spouses are on good terms, are transparent with each other, and have mutually decided to divorce.
- Both spouses are in complete agreement regarding every term of the divorce (alimony, child support, child custody, visitation rights, property distribution, etc.).
- Both spouses know about the family’s finances and broadly understand divorce laws.
- Both spouses are likely to remain friends after the divorce.
- Neither spouse is dependent on the other for financial support.
That said, every divorce can have an element of acrimony and bitterness attached to it and the conditions described above may be present only in the rarest of rare cases. Even if there is a 0.1% doubt that the conditions mentioned above will not be fulfilled, the spouses must consider hiring a lawyer.
Now, here are some situations that strongly demand you hire a divorce attorney:
Situations that Suggest You Must Hire a Lawyer
- There is some disagreement (no matter how little it may be) regarding the terms of the divorce.
- One spouse is not in favor of divorce.
- One spouse has a mental health issue.
- The marriage was earlier rocked because of substance abuse, misconduct, or domestic violence.
- Both spouses do not trust each other.
- The marital issues (child custody, property division, etc.) are complex and need expert legal intervention.
- One spouse is not aware of the family finances (assets and income).
- One spouse will be dependent on the other spouse for financial support after the divorce.
- One spouse has already hired a divorce lawyer.
- One spouse does not have a broad understanding of how divorce laws work in the state.
If your situation falls somewhere in the middle, then you may have an opinion that you are likely to succeed without hiring a family law attorney. And, as Plato once remarked, “opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance.” So, if you are in a 50/50 situation, then too you must consider hiring a divorce attorney.
Finally, remember that while you may try to save on time and money by going in for a DIY divorce, it is a legal matter and therefore needs expert legal opinion and skills.