Q. “ My husband and I have decided to file for divorce, and we have two children and some real estate as assets. He thinks we can work out the divorce on our own, but I wonder if I should get a divorce attorney. I want to make this a civil process, but am afraid on feeling unprotected.”
A. This is a great question that I know many divorcing couples face. If the decision to divorce is a mutual one, is it advisable to do-it-yourself in terms of making your decision to divorce a legal reality? People’s most common objection to working with a lawyer is cost. Unfortunately, we’ve all heard of cases where some lawyer ramped up the litigiousness and seemed to add more to the complexity and grief. In my experience, that is more the exception than the rule. I am not a lawyer, so the advice I’ll offer here is from the perspective of someone who’s been a client in the legal system.
Personally, I would recommend you do your utmost to educate yourself about the legalities of divorce that govern your state or province. A trained lawyer is a powerful resource to do that, as well as answer situations about how the laws may affect your particular circumstances. Why would that not be a great idea? Particularly you since you have children and assets together, you want to make sure you both work out how you want to handle situations that might occur in the long-run that neither of you foresee at this early stage of your separation.
If you already have a fear of being “unprotected,” that is a clear sign that you understand there may be issues out there that you don’t yet know how you want to handle. The job of a lawyer is to help you understand the issues and make clear decisions that will stand the test of time. A lawyer can offer ways to resolve issues that might arise where you and your husband do not see eye-to-eye.
Lee Rosen is an incredible lawyer I interviewed as one of my legal experts who is part of my Divorce Resource Kit. On the subject of people doing divorce on their own, he said, “I would always hire a lawyer. I know there’s a bias when I say that because I’m a lawyer, but I hire a lawyer personally when I have an interface with the legal system. That can be a traffic ticket or a trivial contract dispute…Lawyers deal with this every day. They are the experts. I want to know the inside scoop on how to handle this. That doesn’t always mean I’ll put that lawyer on the front lines, but I’ll at least sit down and get advice and information. Then I’ll decide.”
I cannot see a downside to you and your husband meeting with a lawyer, perhaps even jointly, to understand the lay of the land and go from there. You are just getting information. There are many alternatives to going to court, such as using a mediator or using a collaborative divorce process. Do yourself, and your children, a favor by making sure you fully understand how to implement this decision to divorce in the best way possible. As Lee Rosen put it, “All you have to lose if you don’t do this right is everything you own.” If you’d like to learn more about legal solutions, and other important aspects of thriving after divorce, please check out www.DivorceResourceKit.com