- Kim Grover
Why you should hire a divorce attorney...horror stories from true cases.
1. Custody and parenting time of your minor children: while it's true that custody and parenting time is modifiable based on proper cause and change of circumstances, it's very difficult to come up with that proper cause or change or circumstances barring the ex not completely falling apart. I've had cases where dad agreed to only every other weekend in the divorce because he didn't consult an attorney and he thought that was the norm. I have another client who didn't have an attorney who gave his ex-wife sole legal custody. Now he has no say regarding medical and educational decisions and the ex-wife is sending the kids to the most expensive orthodontist and ophthalmologist in town and he is getting stuck with the bills.
2. Property settlement: once the judgment is entered these are generally non-modifiable unless the parties agree otherwise. I have a current client (I did not represent him in the divorce) who agreed to pay the taxes on the marital home until the children graduate from high school. If this was fashioned as spousal support it may have been modifiable and it may have been tax deductible.
3. Pensions and retirement assets: I've seen parties give up their rights to their spouse's pensions and retirement assets because their spouse told them they didn't deserve it because they didn't work for them. This isn't true. Everything earned during the marriage is marital and should be equitably divided.
5. Property settlement/spousal support: if you don't have an attorney you have no way to figure out if there are hidden assets or income you may be entitled to.
6. Child support: it's for the kids and there is a statutory formula. You should know what it is before you agree no one will pay it.
7. Document services: there are very cheap document services out there who say they will complete and file all the necessary paperwork. They aren't lawyers and can't give you legal advice.
At a minimum, call a family law lawyer, one who regularly works in your county and handles primarily family law cases and get a consultation, even if you have to pay for it. I promise you it will save you money. I recently consulted on a case where the woman has been married nine years. Her husband makes about $120k a year and she makes $20k. I advised her to wait until after her ten year anniversary so she can collect on his social security. This one piece of advice will get this woman thousands of dollars when she retires. (And cost her husband nothing). I know she thought my consultation was well worth the cost.