There's no way to sugar coat it – divorce can be an expensive proposition. For that reason, many people are tempted to try to handle divorce on their own and avoid paying the legal fees. While saving money may seem attractive in the short run, choosing to represent yourself can lead to mistakes that will cost you a lot more down the road.
Every divorce is different, but the process is rarely easy. Even in the most amicable of splits, emotions can complicate things, leading to poor decisions on crucial financial matters. Deciding to hire a lawyer for some or all aspects of your divorce may be the most important decision that you make. At the very least, it's a good idea to consult an experienced family law attorney to get a sense of the process that lies ahead, and what pitfalls you may encounter along the way.
Considerations For Hiring a Family Law Lawyer
Nearly everyone facing the prospect of divorce asks the same first question: how long is the divorce process? The short answer is, at least six months if you're getting divorced in California. The state imposes a six-month waiting period from the time one spouse files for divorce; how long past that the process will last depends entirely on the circumstances of your individual case.
One of the biggest factors that will influence how long your divorce will take and how involved your attorney will need to be is how contentious your divorce is. If you and your spouse are largely in agreement on important matters like child custody and division of assets, you can save a lot of time and fees by coming to an agreement on your own, without extensive negotiations and court battles.
The problem, however, is that most divorcing couples are not able to agree on everything. As soon as emotions come into play and tensions start to rise, it's time to have a neutral third party negotiating on your behalf. Agreeing to what you can without a lawyer is an effective way to save some money, but once agreement starts to seem unlikely or impossible, that's when paying for a lawyer becomes worth it.
Your family law lawyer has a single purpose—to protect your rights and interests. Even if you feel that you can negotiate with your spouse on your own, you should have a lawyer review any agreement before you sign it. An attorney will be familiar with the law and what you're entitled to receive, and will be there to advise you if you're being short changed. The right lawyer will listen to what you want and be as involved in the process as necessary to make sure you achieve it.
A popular option for couples who desire a more do-it-yourself approach to a divorce is mediation. In mediation, a neutral third party, the mediator, will help you reach a collaborative agreement on all the issues to be decided in your divorce. The involvement of attorneys can be limited—while you will be on your own in the mediation sessions, you can still consult them at any point to make sure that your rights and interests are being protected.
More often, divorces are highly contentious. In those cases, hiring an experienced attorney to handle the whole process is best way to protect yourself. If your spouse has hired an attorney, you should not attempt to go toe-to-toe with them without legal representation of your own.
Consult an Experienced Family Law Lawyer
There are a lot of long-term consequences at stake in a divorce. While you may be tempted to try to save money by handling things on your own, you may not know what your rights are or what you're entitled to. The mistakes you make can be far more costly than consulting an experienced professional.
Before you attempt a do-it-yourself divorce, you should talk to a lawyer. At the Access Law Group, our experienced California family law attorneys are here to guide you through the process and advise you on your best course of action. If you're facing the prospect of a divorce or are questioning whether hiring an attorney is appropriate in your situation, contact us today to discuss your circumstances.