Divorces can be expensive. You are splitting up your assets, and probably splitting a two-income home in half (or having to provide for two households at the least). You think you and your spouse can pretty much agree to anything, so you decide to file for divorce without consulting or hiring a lawyer in order to avoid the attorney’s fees. While people do this quite frequently, there are some massive, and incredibly expensive, pitfalls that can await you if you attempt to go it alone (or in legal-speak, pro se). The following is a list of reasons on why you should not file a divorce in NJ without a lawyer.
- It could get expensive. I know you think that if you do not hire an attorney, you will avoid those expensive attorney’s fees. That is true. However, you should think of these fees as an investment. Doing property division on your own can be difficult, especially if your estate is particularly large or complex. Dividing up real property requires multiple documents and transactions. Trying to divide up your retirement uses multiple laws and procedures. Mishandling distribution of your retirement account can actually cost you huge fees or tax penalties that a lawyer would know to avoid. And these are just the property issues.
- You could mess up your custody case. Even if you and your spouse agree to a custody arrangement that is fair, if you mislabel the agreement as shared custody instead of joint legal custody, this could have huge negative repercussions for you, resulting in a loss of parental rights in some respects. It is difficult and costly to modify orders after they are entered, and having a lawyer will make sure to catch any errors or misunderstandings before they become final. Lawyers can also give you advice on how to prepare your case for custody – including what not to do. Many parties think that talking to their children about the case, especially if they are older, is a good idea. A lawyer would guide you that it’s usually not a good idea – and if you want your child to state a preference as to who they would like to live with, a lawyer would be able to get this evidence in front of a judge through better venues than you speaking to your child. The opposing side could convince the court that you are trying to sway the child to like you more.
- Trial could get embarrassing. If you and your spouse do not get along and have to have a hearing for each disagreement, there is another reason why you should not file a divorce in NJ without a lawyer: the rules of evidence. You might think you have a really strong case for why you should be the primary custodial parent, or get to keep the house. But if you do not know how to get this evidence in, or present testimony without drawing objections from the other side, you won’t be able to prove your case. In fact, you could do your own case damage. A lawyer knows what evidence to put on, how to get it properly before the judge and how to argue against objections. Hiring a lawyer means that you will get to have your day in court and it could be more successful.
- You don’t know what you don’t know. You feel guilty the marriage did not work out, and maybe you were a bad actor sometimes and even cheated on your spouse. You think your spouse will take you to the cleaners if you have to go to court with a lawyer so you give them everything – because you do not realize that in New Jersey, adultery cannot really affect the division of property anymore. A massive reason why you should not file a divorce in NJ without a lawyer is because you might think you owe more than you really do, and you could end up regretting the decisions you made based on an emotional reaction without the proper research and guidance.
- Divorce is emotional. Family law attorneys get divorced every day, and are not caught up in the emotions. You need someone with a rational voice to guide you through what can be a scary process. Lawyers are in charge of your best interests, and they will make sure you get the best and fairest deal during the case – even if you might not agree with it at first. And, lawyers will try to stop you from cutting off your nose to spite your face, so to speak, because sometimes divorces can get very spiteful. Having a lawyer will temper the emotional aspect of things, and provide a conduit for communication between you and your spouse if things get too heated.
- It’s really not that expensive. If you and your spouse can get along and agree to compromise and negotiate on the major issues – big property assets, custody, support and visitation – then hiring a lawyer really is not that expensive. The attorney will be able to draw up the appropriate paperwork based on the agreement between you and your spouse, and they will do it correctly the first time. They will file all the paperwork for you, coordinate hearings and meetings, and give you their best opinion concerning any agreements you have reached. Then, they will often do what’s called the ‘closing documents’ to ensure that the property you have decided to divide or transfer is conveyed properly. Couples who work together will keep legal fees down, and what money is paid is worth the peace of mind and reassurances that their divorce was done properly.
This article is not meant to scare you, but simply give you information on why you should not file a divorce in NJ without a lawyer. Family law attorneys deal with these legal issues facing you all the time. You want someone experienced, who can guide you through a traumatic time with firm advocacy, and knowledge. Peter Van Aulen is this kind of lawyer. If you have any questions about filing for divorce in NJ, contact the Law Offices Peter Van Aulen at (201) 845-7400 for a free initial consultation.