The Law Center

What if we are Separating but Agree on most things? Do I still need a Lawyer?

You are getting divorced from your ex, or you’re unmarried with a child and you’re getting separated from the co-parent.  When do you need, and when do you NOT need a lawyer?  Are mediators helpful? 

Getting out of a marriage is harder than getting in.  Getting engaged and married can be easy.  You fill out some simple forms, pay a fee, and get a judge or minister for the ceremony.   However, getting out of a marriage was made deliberately hard by lawmakers as a matter of public policy because society generally wants married couples to stay together.  As a deterrent, they added waiting periods to help  people calm down and the process was initially set up to be confusing and difficult. The legal divorce forms are highly specific, the procedure is strict, and there are many rules/ guidelines you need to know to complete a divorce.  

As a result, it’s worth getting professional help to process the paperwork but you don’t need a trial, litigation, or a contentions process.  When you and your ex generally agree and don’t have a lot of money, assets, or children, thenI don’t think you need an attorney-litigator to file your paperwork.

Our court system is adversarial in nature and lawyers have an ethical and professional responsibility to zealously advocate for one client and against the opponent (the ex, the other spouse or parent). Within a family, a legal battle can cause more problems that it solves.  

Lawyers are trained to fight and take an adversarial position like a “shark” or “pit bull.”   What’s worse, they get paid by the hour so the financial incentive for the lawyers is to have long drawn-out conflict.  The more issues lawyers raise at a separation, the more money they make.  Agreement is cheap.  Fighting is expensive.  I’m not proposing that you never speak to a lawyer.  On the contrary, you need to know your legal rights or you might give up too much with an agreement.  Each party should get a legal consultation from a lawyer, ask questions, and write down the answers so you learn where you stand. 

If you and your ex disagree but aren’t blinded by emotion or an uncontrollable desire to inflict pain, then compromise wherever possible.   If you can’t find a compromise, a mediator can help you.  A lot of people fight not necessarily because of irreconcilable differences, but because of a lack of communication.  Mediators are trained to help.  And if you need some incentive to agree, remember that the average contested divorce in America costs $25,000 – $50,000 each.   The cost for the uncontested divorce is a few hundred dollars.  

For the people who want to agree but have an angry ex who wont stop fighting, then you have no choice– you must get a lawyer, but you can still handle as much of the legal work yourself as you can to reduce your expenses.   Go to The Law Center YouTube channel and go to the self-help playlist for assistance.  If you need help finding a mediation-friendly family law lawyer, click the “Request Consultation” button for a free case evaluation.