Divorce is almost always difficult, even if your situation is amicable. Being on good terms with your ex doesn’t remove the mental, financial and emotional burdens associated with the process. Separating your lives means there is a lot to work out.
Regardless of how you feel about this major life change, there are a number of things you must do before you can finalize your divorce. One of the biggest steps can be finding an attorney that you trust to handle your case.
While it’s completely legal to forgo formal legal representation and instead represent yourself in court, most people in the U.S. choose to hire an attorney to help them.
Divorce is overwhelming enough as it is; having an attorney to gently guide you through the financial disclosure forms, maintenance requests, custody and visitation schedules, and court appearances can help make the process feel easier.
With that said, people hire a lawyer to help with their divorce for many different reasons. We wanted to learn more, so we surveyed approximately 280 divorced couples who worked with lawyers on their cases to find out what drove their decision.
Below we provide the most popular reasons for hiring a lawyer revealed by survey results. Is it time for you to hire a lawyer for your case?
Reasons people hire divorce lawyers
Conventional wisdom says that working with a legal professional is the best way to increase the likelihood that you are satisfied with the outcome of your divorce. Our survey data reflects this belief:
- 33% of the respondents hired a lawyer because they didn’t feel comfortable without one
- 25% did so because they wanted to get the best outcome for their case
- 24% said that they thought it would make things easier
Data from other survey sources also show that one of the benefits of working with an attorney is positive case outcomes, especially in more complicated cases that involve issues like spousal support and child custody.
For example, one survey looked at custody cases where both parties had an attorney, one party had an attorney or neither party had an attorney. When both parties had an attorney, 74% were “extremely” or “moderately” satisfied with the outcome, whereas only 59% of people who didn’t work with an attorney reported the same levels of satisfaction.
Another empirical study measured the benefits of working with a lawyer when seeking spousal support. Spousal support was awarded in more than 77% of cases where both the husband and wife had an attorney, but when neither spouse had an attorney, that percentage dropped to 10%.
The fourth reason our survey respondents hired a lawyer was because their spouse already had one. Many people in this situation fear that if they don’t also have an attorney, their spouse will get an unfair advantage when it comes to dividing assets, child custody and more. There’s data to back this up too.
The spousal support study showed that support was awarded in only 12% of cases when one party had a lawyer, versus 77% of cases when both parties had counsel. And in the custody survey, when both parties had lawyers, 86% of cases settled out of court, but when only one party had a lawyer, 63% of cases settled.
Get the right lawyer for your divorce
Schedule a free 15-min call with our team today
Benefits of working with a divorce attorney
While the upfront price of hiring an attorney appears to cost more than self-representation, those who represent themselves and don’t have any legal training can make mistakes that end up costing them time and money.
Self-represented parties can struggle to correctly read complicated legal documents and complete accurate financial disclosure forms, and they don’t have an attorney’s strategic insight about how the legal system works.
If you’re dealing with a sensitive divorce that involves a restraining order or domestic abuse, working with an attorney may increase your psychological sense of safety. Furthermore, if your case goes to court, it may help reduce the emotional burden if your lawyer can speak to your former partner on your behalf rather than you dealing with them.
When do you not need to work with a lawyer?
If your case is uncomplicated, you may not need to proceed with a divorce lawyer. If you don’t have children or significant assets and are on good terms with your spouse, you may be able to file on your own.
Still, you still need to complete and file all necessary documents required to obtain a divorce, as well as attend court hearings, so hiring an attorney can help ensure that you do everything correctly and understand the process and procedures.
Additionally, if you have children under 18, if one of you earns significantly more income than the other, if one of you is seeking spousal maintenance or child support, or if the marriage lasted a long time and assets feel almost inextricably bound, you’ll likely benefit from hiring professional representation for all of the reasons listed above.
I know I want a lawyer. How do I choose a good one?
When selecting a lawyer, first understand what you can afford—and what you need a lawyer for. In most states, you can work with a limited scope firm like Marble, where we separate your case into manageable steps and charge clear, fixed prices for each step. And if you don’t have the money for a lawyer up front, we offer payment plans whereby you pay a monthly fee that covers a portion of your services until they’re complete.
You can also meet with a few lawyers and move forward with someone you feel comfortable with. You’ll be sharing a lot of sensitive information, and feeling like you’re in good hands may make things feel easier.
There’s no right or wrong way to get divorced, and it’s ultimately your decision whether you choose to hire a lawyer.
We know divorce is difficult. Our aim is to provide you with information from people who’ve been through what you’re going through so you know you’re not alone, and to help guide you toward the decisions that feel right for you.