Divorcing Without a Lawyer

Many people get divorced without hiring a lawyer. This is perfectly legitimate and it might save a whole lot of money. Those who are likely candidates for going the self-help route are those couples who are in entire agreement on how to divide property and debt and on a parenting plan if they have children. One caveat to this scenario: make sure you know what the value of assets are that you are agreeing upon.

It is an all too common occurrence that one spouse has had significantly higher income or significantly better retirement benefits through their work. Retirement accounts are ripe for “hiding” assets because people typically do not think about them on a regular basis. They just sit over in the corner, hopefully growing, but the other spouse just does not give much thought to it because it is a someday sort of thing and does not seem real. It could be that the one who has the account does not even realize it should be treated as marital propery. But, there are actual dollars in that account and some or all of those dollars are marital.

If you reach an agreement and file a divorce on your own, then it is likely to go through the system without ever having to appear before a judge. The judge assumes that you have all the information you need and all the wisdom you need to make a voluntary and fair agreement. So, they will not put the brakes on the divorce to make sure you are getting a “just distribution” of the assets. They will not call you into court and ask, “Are you sure?”

A lawyer can tell you how much of the retirement (or any asset) is marital and subject to being divided. A lawyer can tell you if the proposed agreement is roughly equitable. And a lawyer can put the brakes on for you and tell you where you did not even know to look. For example, does that spouse have a whole bunch stored up in retirement but never shared that information. So, saving several hundred or a few thousand on an attorney could cost you tens of thousands in the long run. It pays to at least consult with an attorney regarding any proposed agreement.

Troutman & Napier, PLLC