I’ll represent myself in my divorce – what could go wrong?
A divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage and is filled with emotional, procedural, and legal pitfalls. Some people want to save money and not to use a lawyer, instead of representing themselves in the proceedings. While this may be successful in very limited situations, people who choose to go with no lawyer find the result to be more expensive in terms of expense or settlement loss than if they had legal representation.
When You Need an Attorney
Except in the most basic, uncontested divorce cases, you need legal representation. Domestic relations matters are often complicated and have specific filing and notification requirements that you may not be aware of and can result in costly mistakes. You must remember that the judge does not relax rules or give any advantage to someone representing themselves. You will be held to the same level of expectation and responsibility as a lawyer throughout your case.
The Hidden Costs of Representing Yourself
No matter how simple or basic the divorce, it is a legal proceeding and your interests are best protected by a lawyer with the training and experience to guide you through the process. If you choose to represent yourself, there are hidden costs that can be greater than fees you would have paid to an attorney, including the following:
- Time. Researching the law, preparing the filings, assuring papers are served appropriately and representing yourself in court takes a lot of time to do well, which you will need to protect your rights and assets. This time costs you money as it pulls you away from your job and has an emotional cost when it pulls you away from your children or family.
- Custody and Visitation. Custody and visitation decrees are complicated and you may be giving up rights you are unaware of until after the decree is finalized. This will cost money and time to correct, limiting your time with your children.
- Taxes and Settlements. The dissolution of a marriage will have tax consequences and if you are required to pay alimony or child support, your income is impacted for years to come. How these settlements are structured can have a positive or negative impact on your future tax burden.
- Assets, Property and Retirement Funds. Many people who represent themselves in a divorce do not receive all of the asset, property or portions of retirement funds that they are entitled to.
- Missing Property or Assets. You may be entitled to property or assets that you are unaware of and after the divorce is finalized, you cannot claim them.
When representing yourself, you risk losing vitiation or custody rights, assets, and property that you are entitled to under the law. A misfiled form, a quickly signed document, faulty negations or misunderstanding of the law can lead to mistakes and losses that cannot be corrected. Avoid these situations by hiring an expert and experienced divorce attorney, which saves time and money.
Christina M. Hronek, of Hronek Law, LLC, is a skilled divorce attorney who guides her clients through the process to achieve the best possible outcome in each situation. Call or contact us today to learn how we can represent your interests in divorce proceedings.