When getting divorced without a divorce lawyer makes sense -- and when you should hire one.
You probably know of people who suffered the "torments of hell" going through divorce, and you also probably know people who pulled it off without much fuss. Why are some divorces sensible and others catastrophic?
The answer can depend, to a surprising extent, on just one factor: how much you rely on lawyers and divorce courts to resolve troublesome issues. The less you use the court, the less cost and heartache, and, in many cases, the better quality of the final result. But how do you avoid courts and lawyers?
Make Decisions by Yourselves
In theory, at least, it's simple: You do best if you and your spouse work out thorny issues together, with help from a neutral third party, such as a mediator, if needed. You don't let divorce lawyers haggle over such vital matters as how your children will be raised, what happens to the family home, and how your property will be divided. If you and your spouse can work these issues out yourselves -- and many, if not most, couples can -- you will save yourselves time, money, and anguish. More important, you will spare your children the ugly spectacle of extended parental fights, helping them come through the divorce as undamaged as possible.
If you are able to resolve the big questions of children, money, and property, you then just need to ask the court, in writing, to grant a divorce. In many states, you don't even have to appear in court. Many courts now make it relatively easy for people to handle an uncontested divorce without a lawyer.
Keep Lawyers From Fanning the Flames
When you are emotionally distraught or angry, turning all the details and hassle of a divorce over to a lawyer may seem like a perfect solution. Unfortunately, it can turn out to be a "deal with the devil". Most observers -- and people who have been through an acrimonious divorce -- agree that lawyers frequently make things worse, not better.
This happens because lawyers operate under a prime directive: the zealous pursuit of their client's interests. One lawyer can't fully represent both divorcing spouses, because each spouse's best interests are different. So, when one spouse brings a lawyer into a divorce, the other usually does likewise. There may even be a third lawyer to represent the children if there is a custody dispute. And then it can get ugly. When two or more lawyers are fighting for their clients' interests, the battle can go on and on, intensifying in passion, until the clients run out of money and limp to the settlement table.
Worse, if there are children, the fight depletes not only your pocketbook but also your children's sense of security and self-esteem. Once the legal fight is over, trying to establish a normal ongoing parenting relationship between both parents and the children can be very difficult.