Do I Need an Attorney for my Divorce?
Nov 13, 2014
Divorce attorneys cost money; there is no doubt about that. According to the Department of Health Services, there were a total of 15,941 divorces in the State of Wisconsin in 2013. Of these divorces, 53% involved minor children. In the state of Wisconsin, you are not required to have an attorney to get divorced. This begs the question, “Why spend the money on a divorce lawyer? What are the advantages of having an attorney?” The answers to these questions depends on what type of divorce you are facing.
Usually when two people are getting a divorce, strong emotions are involved, whether the choice to divorce was agreeable or not. This causes most divorces to be considered as a contested divorce. Having a contested divorce means the parties cannot agree on all issues, which causes the case to be more complicated. Many times, these issues involve child placement and custody, but in some cases the argument is about property division, such as who will keep the house.
Advantages of Attorney for Contested Divorce
When the court is deciding who is right and who is wrong on a disputed issue, the court doesn’t care what you think is fair and how the other party has treated you. The court cares about what the law is on the issue and how that applies to your case. You don’t know what the law is and google searching is not legal research. An attorney knows the law and how it applies to your case. An attorney will also have experience on how to argue successfully in court. With these two abilities, an attorney can tell you whether you are legally right or wrong, whether you have a chance of winning the argument in court, and, most importantly, put forth the best argument for your side in front of the judge. Also, your attorney’s knowledge of the law means they are able to advise you on when to accept or deny the other party’s offer.
In some cases, the parties are able to agree on all issues. They have discussed property division, custody and placement of the children, and alimony/maintenance. Parties always believe they agree on all issues, but usually do not know what all the issues are until it is too late. Unfortunately, it is common for people to do a stipulated divorce without attorneys only to find out years later that they missed an important issue. For example, if the parties agree that the husband receives the house, but the parties fail to properly transfer ownership outside of the divorce, this issue isn’t discovered until the husband tries to sell the house, refinance the house, the house goes into foreclosure or the husband passes away. Once the issue is discovered, the other party has to be located and convinced to draft and sign the papers that should have been done years ago. Obviously, it is difficult to get this person to help you considering they are your ex and get no benefit from this action. Having a good lawyer means that all issues will be addressed and resolved.
Also, there are times parties agree on an issue, but fail to properly document the agreement and get it added to the final order. After a while the parties will have a disagreement and need the court to help fix the dispute. The court will only review the final order and, if the issue was not properly addressed, will be of no help.
Advantages of Attorney in Stipulated Divorce
There are two ways an attorney can be involved in a Stipulated Divorce. The first is where an attorney is hired by both parties to successfully complete the divorce. The other way is where the attorney represents only one party of the stipulated divorce. First we will discuss one attorney representing both parties.
One Attorney Represents Both Parties. An attorney that represents both parties will not choose sides in a case, but instead is going to draft all divorce papers needed in the case and review all issues in the case to make sure they are discussed and documented correctly in the divorce proceedings. The attorney will also execute any legal documentation that is needed outside of the divorce to make sure the divorce decree is fully executed. Having an attorney who is experienced in all issues and possible future problems is needed so that the final divorce order and documents completely finish the divorce.
Attorney Represents One Party. The other type of representation, where only one party is represented, has the advantages above plus legal guidance. Legal guidance means that the attorney is able to reasonably predict what a court would decide on any given issue in your divorce. With this knowledge the attorney is able to look at the proposed divorce agreement and tell you whether it is fair, whether you are being taken advantage of, and whether you will be able to survive financially after your divorce. This is important. Having an experienced attorney will help you better answer these questions.
Our office has ran into many situations where a party of the case, usually the party that deals with the family finances, keeps pushing the other party to do the divorce without getting any attorneys involved. This is a huge red flag! This usually means that the pushy party knows that the settlement they are offering is less than the other party is entitled to and doesn’t want them to figure it out until it is too late. If you are in this situation, you need to talk to an attorney.
Whether you and your spouse are civil or at each other’s throats, there are advantages to having an attorney that make the investment worth it. At very least, you need to have a free consultation with an attorney about your situation. At Pedersen Law Office we offer free consultations in all our areas of practice, including family law. Our law office serves the communities of Appleton, Neenah, Menasha, Oshkosh, Green Bay and their surrounding areas.