I recently met with a young woman who brought with her to our consultation the packet of fill-in-the-blank divorce papers she got from a local courthouse. She filled them out the best she could, but her spouse would only provide her with some of the financial information the forms require. She wanted to know the next steps in the divorce process once she serves her husband and files the documents with her local Court Administration office. The young woman just wanted to get the divorce done; she knew if she pressed her husband for any more financial information, like his recent retirement account statement, it would just create a fight and she did not want to fight with him again.
A young man set up a consultation. He and his wife, when they were getting along, filled out the fill-in-the-blank divorce papers, turned them in, and got divorced with little fighting or fuss. Neither one of them had an attorney. They did not want to pay for attorneys since they worked everything out together. During our meeting, he asked me to review the Divorce Decree because the parenting time schedule they agreed on was no longer working and he was missing parenting time with his kids. Also, they failed to include all of their marital debts in the paperwork so they were now fighting who has to pay their credit card bills.
Should the young woman do the divorce on her own? No, she was going to get a financial settlement much less than she should get. Should the young man have done the divorce on his own? No, because he has to go back to court in order for the judge to figure out who should pay all or some of all of the debts and it will take months to fix the parenting time schedule.
Attorneys can be expensive. Meeting with an attorney before a divorce begins is well worth the time and money. Hiring an attorney after a divorce is done can be more expensive to correct errors or to modify a parenting time schedule. An experienced family law attorney walks a client through the best way to divide assets and debts and to create a parenting time schedule that works. A family attorney is an investment in finalizing a divorce in a way that makes sense.