One of the big questions during a divorce is whether you will need a marital lawyer. On one hand, you’d like to save money on lawyer fees. On the other hand, if you do all the legal work yourself, you may be at higher risk of an unfair outcome or legal mistakes that will come back to bite you. The decision usually comes down to the circumstances of your marriage and divorce.
If you have an uncontested divorce, no children, and no assets to divide with each other, you may want to handle matters on your own without involving lawyers. Doing your own legal paperwork is quicker and more cost-effective.
Unfortunately, not every divorce is that simple. Decisions about children and finances can get complicated quickly, and having a divorce lawyer on your side makes the process easier. The right attorney can help you advocate for your rights, keep the playing field fair, and negotiate to get a better outcome than you could achieve on your own.
Signs You Need a Marital Lawyer
Here are seven situations where you need a marital lawyer to help you with your divorce proceedings.
1. Your spouse is threatening you
If your spouse threatens you and you fear for your safety, you should retain a lawyer. If necessary, they can file a temporary restraining order for your protection. The lawyer can also have some of the communication go through them, not you.
If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, you should seek help from your local legal aid services. These services can often help people like you qualify for free or low cost legal aid. In circumstances involving threats and violence, you’ll want to seek guidance and safety.
2. Your spouse has already consulted with a marital lawyer
If your spouse has consulted with a lawyer, you should do the same. You will be at a disadvantage if you represent yourself while your spouse retains a lawyer. Your spouse will be better equipped to position the situation to their advantage.
Without your own lawyer, it will be much harder to settle on a fair agreement. You will likely have a much better outcome if you retain a lawyer of your own.
3. You have significant assets or debt
When spouses assume significant assets or debt during a marriage, it’s better to have a marital lawyer assist in dividing them. Trying to split them yourself may leave one party with a less favorable distribution of assets or cause unnecessary strife. A lawyer can help keep negotiations fair.
Washington is a community property state, meaning most things are supposed to be divided equally between divorcing spouses. There are exceptions for some inheritances and property owned separately before the marriage, but otherwise, all property, assets, and debt acquired during the marriage are subject to even distribution between parties.
A family law attorney advocates for their clients to receive the best possible outcome. Assets and debt can complicate a divorce, so you should consult with a lawyer if the financial stakes are high.
4. You own a business
A business is a significant asset in a marriage. If your and/or your spouse owns a business, you almost certainly need a divorce lawyer to figure out how to move forward when you separate.
Getting a lawyer makes sense from both a personal and business standpoint. If you both own the business, you might plan to sell it upon splitting, or one spouse might buy the other out. Even if only one spouse owns the business, things can get complicated if the other spouse contributed to it. Regardless, it’s sure to be a big financial issue during the divorce.
A lawyer will help you review all the materials to reach a fair division of assets for the parties. They will help you understand the best financial choice to make for your business. At the very least, you and your spouse should have a lawyer review your proposed paperwork after reaching an agreement on your own to make sure all your interests are protected.
5. You have children
Custody and parenting plans are often the most significant and emotionally challenging issues in a divorce. Having a lawyer to answer your questions and advocate for your desired custody plan will make the process smoother and less stressful. You’ll be able to take comfort in knowing that you have someone on your side, someone who can effectively fight for your own and your children’s interests.
A local lawyer will understand Washington state laws, especially as they relate to parenting issues. Most people at all education levels find it difficult to read all the relevant statutes and write paperwork on their own. A marital lawyer can help you correctly file your paperwork and advocate for you if needed. Having a lawyer is sometimes the difference between having primary custody of your children or not.
6. You have been the victim of domestic violence
When there is a history of domestic violence in a marriage, hiring a lawyer is always necessary. In cases like these, it is much harder to stay safe and settle a divorce fairly without the help of a marital lawyer. They can protect your rights and file temporary restraining orders for your safety.
If you have children and want to take them someplace safe, you need to file a temporary restraining order. Otherwise, your spouse may accuse you of kidnapping. A lawyer can handle these situations and take the worry of remaining safe off your mind.
7. Your spouse is hiding assets
If your spouse tries to hide assets, you need a lawyer. It can be hard to prove that the assets exist on your own. If you go through the divorce without a lawyer’s help, you are less likely to receive your share.
Again, as Washington is a community property state, most assets are subject to division during divorce. Hiring a lawyer to handle your divorce will bring your spouse’s hidden assets to light, something that is harder to accomplish if you are unrepresented.
How a Marital Lawyer Can Help
Once your divorce is final, it becomes an official agreement with the court. If you handle it yourself and later want to change something, it is hard to go back and ask the court to redo it. It’s always better to have a lawyer look over your documentation before finalizing it, even if you write it yourself.
If you’re in any of the situations we described above, you should have a lawyer during the divorce process. At Anderson Hunter, our family law lawyers have the experience you need. We handle divorce issues of all kinds and are here to support you through difficult times.
Call us today to schedule a consultation. We will take the guesswork out of getting the outcome you deserve.