Regardless of whether you’re parting on peaceful terms or it is a less than amicable split, a divorce can be a stressful situation that leaves you with more questions than answers. One of the most common questions we hear in our family law division is whether or not you need a lawyer to help with your divorce.
We’re always careful with how we answer that question, because the short answer is no, you do not need a lawyer in order to process and finalize your divorce. However, you’ll almost assuredly want one. We explain why in today’s blog.
Do I Need A Divorce Lawyer?
When someone asks us if they need a lawyer for their divorce, even if they are splitting on good terms with their spouse, we liken the situation to whether or not you need a mechanic for a check engine problem in your car. Even if you understand cars better than the average person, it’s not a simple process to fix a major check engine problem. You have to run a diagnostics test to figure out what’s wrong, order the right parts, watch Youtube videos of how to fix the problem and then perform the maintenance yourself. It’s going to take significant time and effort, and if one little thing is wrong, it can cause major problems when you’re cruising on the highway.
The same can be said for navigating a divorce without an attorney. If you don’t settle child custody properly or understand marital property division, you can end up giving up way more than you should during the divorce, even if you’re doing your best to make things right. Instead, trust the process to someone who understands asset allocation and will ensure you get everything you are entitled to receive during the split.
Another issue that we often run into when clients are deciding whether or not to hire a divorce lawyer is the stigma they believe it could portray. They believe it could be seen by friends or family members as a contentious move, or that they are trying to spite their spouse and take more than their fair share. This is simply a misguided view of what a lawyer actually provides. They are a professional resource that ensures everything gets done quickly and appropriately, and they ensure your best interests are protected. Don’t let what others might think impact your decision to hire a lawyer.
We also hear from people who are wondering if they can just get by without an attorney if their spouse is hiring one to mediate the divorce. This is a dangerous road to go down, because although your spouse may be paying the lawyer with your joint bank account, if your spouse is listed as the client, that’s whose interests the lawyer will put first. There are independent mediation options for couples who agree on every aspect of the divorce, but don’t confuse an independent mediator with trusting your spouse’s lawyer to work out an agreement that suits both sides. At a minimum, hire a lawyer to look over the agreement that has been drafted by the other side to ensure you completely understand what you’re agreeing to.
At the end of the day, you don’t need a lawyer in order to complete your divorce in Illinois, but we strongly advise against it for most individuals. At a minimum, consult with a family law attorney to understand your rights and the stakes. Trying to save money by skipping out on a divorce lawyer can cost you a lot on the back end in terms of property division and custody arrangements. Don’t leave it to chance. Hire a lawyer, protect your interests and ensure you get a fair shake in the family law system.
For more information, or for assistance with your divorce or family law matter, reach out to the experienced lawyers at Appelman & Lloyd today.