Do I Need a Lawyer to File for Divorce?

When it comes to ending a marriage, most couples prefer to get through the process as quickly and with the least amount of financial exposure.  In the states of New York and New Jersey, one can file for divorce on a number of grounds, including abandonment, adultery, cruel or inhumane treatment, and no fault/ irreconcilable differences.  But how easily can you dissolve a marriage without the use of a divorce lawyer? Is a DIY divorce possible in New Jersey and New York?

The short answer is yes, you can file for a no-fault divorce by yourself if the proceeding is uncontested and you’re willing to invest the time researching and following through with the correct procedures. There are petitions that need to be downloaded, forms completed and filings to be made in your county or state of residence.

Is a divorce attorney necessary?

Handling your own divorce may seem like a simple way to save legal fees, especially when you and your soon-to-be former mate seem to agree on everything regarding the split. You’ve hashed out mutual agreements on things like property division, child custody and alimony payments. You feel that you both are able to handle the divorce civilly and with no chance of fighting over child support or visitation rights. However, even the most rational and well-intentioned couples can fall into conflict during a divorce, which complicates matters even further. Unresolved rancor over domestic responsibilities and the parenting of children can turn things sour quickly.

There are strict regulations, forms and paperwork and a single mistake or unexpected disagreement with your partner can turn a simple do-it-yourself affair into a nightmare situation.

Situations where an attorney may not be necessary

Couples who do not have minor children, have few marital assets and are not demanding any kind of alimony support may find that legal representation isn’t necessary to end their marriage. If your financial situation is uncomplicated and you’re able to put in the legwork to ensure that all forms are properly submitted to your local courthouse, you won’t need a lawyer. Couples who have been married a short period of time or are getting a quick annulment may opt to go this route. And while you don’t need a lawyer per se, having one complete the necessary paperwork and case information statements can be well worth the cost. It’s hard not to overstate the importance of filing accurate forms with the courts, and a competent divorce attorney will ensure no detail is overlooked, helping you to avoid future problems.

If you still decide self-represent and get divorced without legal counsel, consider hiring a divorce attorney who can outline the process and review settlement agreement documents before submission.

When you should retain a divorce attorney

Divorce lawyers know the law in your state and understand how the system works. Whenever minor children are involved, large assets need to be divided, or future demands for spousal support are present, you want to have a trustworthy attorney in your corner – someone who will protect your interests. The laws surrounding spousal support and what is deemed in the “best interest” of a minor child are complicated at best, which is another compelling reason to have a professional handle the proceedings.

Hiring a divorce lawyer is also recommended if there is any prior history of substance abuse, domestic violence or child endangerment. Also, if you suspect that your spouse is being untruthful about assets, financial debts or if they are being particularly ugly about property division or anything to do with child custody, an attorney can help assure that your rights are protected. Your legal counsel will not only listen to your concerns and expectations, but act as a buffer when divorces get nasty. Moreover, your attorney will help you navigate the proceedings as smoothly as possible.

Discuss your legal needs in New York and New Jersey

Whether you need a divorce settlement agreement drafted by a legal professional, or are still unsure if you need to retain a divorce lawyer, Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman are here to help. We offer private consultations from our law offices in Bergen County, NJ and Rockland County, NY. Our attorneys understand the myriad legal issues that arise in divorce proceedings, and provide seasoned guidance every step of the way.