Divorce Without a Lawyer?
You may be wondering why I am talking about how to divorce without a lawyer when I’m an attorney. This may seem ironic, but I’ve learned from many years of experience that not everybody can afford an attorney and not everybody can afford our firm. To be quite honest, we are sometimes on the expensive side, but you will get what you pay for. That being said, not everybody needs what we offer, so I wanted to share how to get divorced without actually having to pay for a lawyer.
Please understand that the purpose of this is not to tell you that you don’t need a lawyer. If at all possible, you do need a lawyer.
What to Do
1.) Do get a lawyer, or at least meet with one. Please know that I’m not recommending that you do not get a lawyer. If you can, get a lawyer. If you can’t, meet with several. There will usually be free consultations. In my experience, those who charge for the consultation probably will give you better advice and more time.
2.) Take many consultations, don’t just go with one lawyer. You do want to speak to many different lawyers and you do want to speak to them throughout your case. Don’t just go before the divorce starts. Go at any major step, such as any time you have a court appearance coming up. You can even get consultations with people on the specific event that’s approaching, a specific hearing, or the specific issue that’s approaching. You can get an attorney to consult with you on that limited issue. In the consultation:
- Ask many questions. Do prepare the questions in advance so that when you are in the consultation, you’re well prepared for what you want to ask about.
- Take notes. If you’re going to have consultations for the purpose of not hiring a lawyer, then you definitely want to have your questions written down beforehand and the answers to them afterwards so you can go back over and review them. You can also speak to other lawyers in the future about those same issues and same answers when you do meet with other lawyers.
- Investigate what other options you have. It’s not simply a question of either you have a lawyer or you don’t have a lawyer. With the changes in technology, the changes in social media, and even the changes in the laws have opened up a lot of options that people may not be aware of. For example, some law firms are offer unbundled services, where there is a limited fee for service, meaning you can hire a lawyer or a law firm for specific purposes. In a divorce, you might want them to help you with document preparation. You might want help with document exchange so you can understand what you’re supposed to receive and what you’re supposed to get. Maybe you want to hire them just for analysis of financial issues. Whatever it is, they do have firms that offer this kind of service and you should look into firms that do.
3.) Look into firms that offer consultation services. Some firms offer consultation services, which means you can hire them and pay them, but they don’t have to go to court. This is a limited type of service where you can come in whenever you need to for however long that you need to and get answers to questions, get documents reviewed, and even have things prepared that may be under their signatures. This is more cost effective than an unbundled service because you’re getting whatever you need but it can become quite costly depending on how much of it you do need to use.
4.) Consider other options. If there aren’t contested issues, franchises like Divorce Center, will do limited document preparation for a limited fee. Companies like Legal Zoom and other online document preparation services allow you to pay a small fee and have certain documents themselves prepared. You will want to investigate this option if you’re going to consider going through a divorce without anybody’s assistance.
What Not to Do
1.) Don’t go to the internet for research. There are far too many resources available with incorrect information. Do not trust that the internet is going to give you the right information for your specific case.
2.) Don’t talk to your friends. As much as they may be helpful and as much as you might think they’ve gone through similar circumstances, they probably haven’t and you’re more often going to hear the horror stories. I always reference the McDonald’s lawsuit from 20 years ago, where somebody spilled coffee and got $3 million. Everybody hears about it all the time, but that’s because it’s an aberration. That case is not how personal injury lawsuits work – you hear about it because it is an aberration. If you’re going to go to friends and family about a divorce, you’re usually going to get the horror story and it’s not going to help you.
3.) Don’t sign anything before you read it thoroughly and before you understand it. A lot of people think it’s going to be easier to just sign the agreement. They think they’ll get out of it, they’ll save the legal fees, and they’ll just get on with their lives. More often than not, they’re signing something that is drastically contrary to their interests, can’t be changed in the future, and is very detrimental to their finances and lives.
4.) Don’t think not having a lawyer will help you in any way. Don’t expect to get sympathy when you go into court. Don’t expect it to be easier to vacate bad decisions or judgements that are entered. The court will not care that you did this on your own. That’s the choice that you made and they will presume that you understood and knew the law when you went into the case.
5.) Don’t expect it to be any different that you handling it yourself than if you had a lawyer. The law will be the same, the procedure will be the same and the decisions will be the same, if not worse.
I do hope this information helps you if you are going to litigate without an attorney.