If you are one of the lucky ones who has decided to get a divorce in a relatively conflict-free way, congratulations. Count your lucky stars.
You may be tempted to just try your best to figure out the paperwork and handle it all pro se (self-represented).
Do. Not. Do. This.
Your future self will thank you for thinking twice on this front.
Know why? You might expect me to say that it's because lawyers are “smart,” or because they have had experience with dozens or hundreds of divorces and family law situations, whereas you've either never done this before or have only been through it a time or two.
You might expect this because this article is written by a lawyer. But first and foremost, it is written by someone who has been through an “uncontested” divorce, decided to represent herself, and has regretted it ever since! The services New Leaf provide are based on personal experience as things I wish she had available to me at the time. So many later disputes could have been avoided, had things been done right the first time.
I wanted to avoid conflict. I wanted to save time. I wanted to save money. I wanted it to be “over.” Predictably, none of that was the result. My story is not unique. We hear the same things over and over again from clients, friends, and colleagues who pay over an over again for the “savings” they had at the moment of their divorce.
Hiring a lawyer (the right lawyer anyway) should not mean that you want things to turn antagonistic – or even to “get more” than you and your soon-to-be-ex have already more or less agreed. That's not what I am writing about.
Working with a lawyer (the right kind of lawyer) instead should mean that you engage in a process, and come away with documented agreements that provide clarity for the path forward for you and your family, and supply true resolution of any remaining disputes. It should also mean that you get advice about a number of things that you didn't even think to think about, before they ever become problems.
The right kind of lawyer should also provide you with guidance beyond the judge's order or clerk's stamp announcing the divorce is “final” – on pragmatic things in addition to the purely legal. Most lawyers at this point will just mark your file closed and wash their hands of you…. even though there are a number of things to take care of during this time of transition in a way that doesn't bombard you all at once. (Do you need to buy a new house? Who's a good real estate agent? Do you need to revise your will? Who is a good estate planning attorney? Do you need child care? How about a spa day? Etc.)
By contrast, the wrong kind of lawyer is the kind who will complicate matters rather than clarifying, the kind who wants your case to last as long as possible and involve as much drama as possible so as to increase those billable hours, the kind who can only think about (at most) the “legal issues” in a vacuum rather than your situation as a whole person, and new family. Don't go with that kind of lawyer, as doing so may even be worse than going it alone. But also don't let the existence of those kinds of lawyers dissuade you from finding a lawyer who can and will empower you to legitimately make your life better going forward.