"Do I need a lawyer for an uncontested divorce?"
Uncontested divorce, or at least divorce without acrimony, is a fabulous concept. It ranks on par with elimination of crime and world peace. It is a laudable objective, but is unlikely to work out that way. The reason is simple.
In every divorce of duration, professionals have been involved in a myriad of ways to weave the parties’ lives together. These range from the minister required to legally marry the parties to the banker combining individual accounts to joint ones. Professional help is thus anticipated to untangle this jointness .
Typically lawyers are one of a few professionals who may aid with this. Clearly, the law allows pro se representation, but that does not mean it is a good idea. It may be viewed akin to changing your own oil in today’s modern car. It takes special tools and lubricants, and there is really little way to determine if you do it right, unless the car’s use-life is shortened.
You may think you have an uncontested divorce, but that rarely occurs in practice when the parties get down to the details of assets, liabilities and children. Even assuming that there is an agreement, you should know there are many facets of your divorce that you probably are not aware of that will have to be addressed, or it may be to your detriment. And if the divorce is truly uncontested, a lawyer should be able to help you address these in an inexpensive and timely fashion.
For example, if you are still contemplating your divorce, ask yourself if you have thought about the following questions and their answers:
- Who will set up the child-support account and implement the child-support wage withholding order?
- Is there a provision for payment of COBRA so that a spouse does not go uninsured?
- How will the retirement accounts be divided by the Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)?
- Who can claim the kids on their taxes?
- Should you file bankruptcy before or after divorce? Does the timing matter?
- Are there unpaid taxes or tax consequences from the marriage?
- What happens if the spouse who takes the marital home cannot refinance it or defaults on the mortgage or other marital debt?
If you have not thought about these questions, or don’t know the answers, this should give you great pause. Any one of these issues may cause financial harm or problems with the parent-child relationship in the future. Finally, if you make a mistake, be aware that you are held to the same standard as an attorney. The unconntested divorce attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. we have stepped into several legal cases with do-it-yourself divorces where critical issues were not addressed, and which were difficult, if not impossible, to correct later.
Ultimately, the question really isn’t if you should get an uncontested divorce lawyer if you have an uncontested divorce. The question is whether the divorce is truly uncontested and if you are willing to accept the risks of resolving all of the issues for which you previously used bankers, doctors, ministers, counselors, and others to address.
In an uncontested divorce, if one party is represented by an attorney and the other party is pro se (without counsel), it is advisable to at least consult with an attorney to ensure your concerns are answered and a fair agreement is entered into by the parties.
In a small percentage of cases with no assets and children, an uncontested divorce may indeed make sense. Even when uncontested, legal counsel can help to prevent agreements that may invite future litigation. An agreement for final division of property and a divorce decree are orders of the court and enforceable contracts, without the possibility of modification in most cases. However, the uncontested divorce lawyers at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. we urge you to be wary of what you do not know and consciously accept these risks. Better yet, consult with a competent divorce attorney. You’ll be glad you did.