The jury results are in, and the verdict is clear: hiring an attorney is the most expensive part about getting divorced. And not just by a little, either—by a lot.
Between retainers, hourly fees, and other expenses, the price of a good divorce attorney isn’t cheap. And with no concrete way to tell exactly how much your divorce will cost (or how long it’ll take), this leaves many potential clients wondering if they’d be better off not hiring an attorney, altogether.
Unfortunately, this would be a mistake. Because while it’s impossible to tell you exactly what your attorney will cost, what we can tell you is that it will almost certainly be worth it.
For those wondering, “Why do I need an attorney?”, here’s what you need to know about representation, why it’s so important, and what Maples Family Law can do to help you with this important decision.
Why Do I Need an Attorney?
The short answer to this is: you don’t.
According to California family law, you do not have to have an attorney in order to get a divorce. You and your spouse are free to duke things out on your own, draft your own settlement agreement, and can even head to trial without backup.
However, like a lot of things in life, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Part legal rights advocate, part therapist, and part divorce trail guide, an attorney is a critical part of any successful divorce squad. And heading into this journey without one would be kind of like sending Frodo on to Mt. Doom without the help of trusty Samwise—or worse, Gandalf.
Hence, whether you are engaging in divorce mediation, collaborative divorce, or want to explore the treacherous path of divorce litigation, here are six reasons why you really do need an attorney.
1. Reducer of Stress
First and foremost, attorneys reduce stress.
Just like you don’t have to worry about things like speed limits when your Über driver is at the wheel, an attorney’s job is to take over legal navigation. When you hire one, you no longer have to worry about all the nitty-gritties of your journey (like deadlines and paperwork and filing fees). Instead, your attorney worries about that for you, freeing up your mental bandwidth, so you can focus on more important things.
2. Communication Buffer
Once you have an attorney, your spouse will be obligated to go through them if they want any information. This means you no longer have to feel obligated to answer your spouse’s call, or to engage with them in pointless, circular, emotional discussions.
The only exception to this, is if a judge initiates a temporary order (about, say, property or child custody), which may require you to occasionally coordinate with one another. Baring the bare minimum required by your judge, however, there’s no other reason you ever need to feel obligated to answer a call or text.
3. Divorce Law Rosetta Stone
Let’s be real, here: divorce law is complicated. The jargon is formal, stilted, and filled with enough long, run-on sentences to drive anyone insane.
Luckily, family lawyers have gone a few rounds in the ring with this type of language, and can now read legal jargon as easily as a child’s bedtime story. Which is great, since it means you don’t have to!
An attorney can help you interpret the law, and apply it to your unique situation in a way that actually makes sense. This will, in turn, save you a lot of time, money, and stress, since there will be a lot of formal information to ferry between parties along the way.
4. Divorce GPS
That education will be good for more than just translating the law… it’ll also be helpful when applying it. Because—believe it or not—when it comes to divorce, you have options.
In California, your first choice will be what type of divorce you want; but the decisions won’t end there. Indeed, your journey will be filled with crossroads, and each choice will have a different result. However, it can be hard to feel right about a decision, when you have no idea where each one leads.
This is where experience comes into play. As one who’s seen it all (or, at least, a lot of it), an attorney is like a really great trail guide—or that GPS app you can’t live without. They help you understand how each choice will affect your divorce, and guide you toward the path that will achieve the best results.
5. Top-Notch Paper Pusher
Paperwork is one of the biggest headaches about divorce—and a huge offender of delays and setbacks.
First off, there’s figuring out which divorce paperwork you need. Next there’s filling then out—which lines you don’t want to miss and what supplemental information you’ll need—and that’s not even getting into where you have to file them and how much you’ll have to pay when you do.
Hiring an attorney is a stress-free fast past to paperwork made easy. Sure, you’ll need to provide information and do the actual signing, but that’s about where it stops. Not only will your attorney make sure you’re filling out the right paperwork, they’ll also make sure it gets filed, too.
6. Risk Mitigation
When it comes to divorce, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. Filing the right paperwork is one of them, but there are also discovery deadlines, financial disclosures, service proofs, and, in some cases, even protective orders that you have to worry about.
All of these things need to be handled within a certain timeframe, and according to very specific protocol. And failure to follow these protocols will—at the very least—result in fines and delays. At most, then can result in a default judgment, the relinquishment of parental rights, or a significant loss of property.
These types of mistakes are avoidable, but only if you know what to watch out for. When you don’t, they can often be costly—sometimes impossible—to reverse. Hence, instead of playing Russian roulette with self-representation, it’s better to hire an attorney.
The right representation mitigates risk by steering you around common pitfalls, not only saving you time and money, but safeguarding your rights, as well.
Wrapping it all Up
While almost every divorce could benefit from an attorney, not everyone will need the same type of services.
For example, a couple that’s chosen an uncontested divorce certainly won’t need the same attorney involvement as a divorce trial. Similarly, spouses with a prenuptial agreement will probably be just fine with mediation.
That being said, all of these couples could benefit from attorney involvement. Just how much, however, depends on your unique circumstances.
A good attorney is the one who caters their legal strategy to fit your needs. They are one who respects your time, your wants, and—perhaps especially—your budget, fighting tirelessly for your rights within whatever parameters you set.
Do You Need A Divorce Attorney in California?
If you have more questions about divorce attorneys in California—and how one might be able to help with your situation—we want to hear from you. Start your divorce process out right by calling Maples Family Law at (209) 989-4425, or get in touch online, and let us help your divorce go as smoothly as possible.