If you have recently decided to end your marriage, or the decision has been made for you by your spouse, the next step is the legal process of divorce. Before the divorce process begins, you need to decide whether to hire an attorney to represent you or try and represent yourself. Fort Worth divorce attorney Jon Boyd offers five reasons why you should not represent yourself in your divorce.
To make an informed decision regarding the need for legal representation in your divorce, you need to have a basic understanding of the divorce process itself. The legal process of divorce starts when one spouse (the Petitioner) files an Original Petition for Divorce which includes basic information about the parties, the marriage, and the grounds on which the divorce is sought. That petition, along with a summons, must be served on the other spouse (the Respondent). The Respondent has 20 days to file a formal written Answer with the court. If the Respondent fails to file an Answer, the Petitioner can ask for a default judgment (after 60 days) which effectively grants the divorce and awards to Petitioner what he/she asked for in the petition (with some exceptions). If the Respondent does file an Answer, the parties begin the discovery process. At some point they will also attempt to negotiate an out of court settlement. If an agreement is reached that resolves all issues in the divorce, it can be filed with the court. Once the judge accepts the agreement a final decree is issued, and the parties are legally divorced. If an agreement cannot be reached that resolves all issues, the divorce will proceed to trial and those issues will be settled at trial.
If you are facing divorce, you may also be worried about the financial impact of that divorce. That, in turn, may leave you to consider representing yourself during your divorce. Although there is no legal requirement that the parties to a divorce be represented by an attorney, it is often in their best interest to hire an attorney. Five reasons you should not represent yourself in a divorce include:
You have minor children. Issues involving minor children are both among the most disputed during a divorce and the most commonly modified after a divorce. Hopefully, you and your spouse can put the needs of your children first during the divorce process; however, to decrease the likelihood of protracted litigation and/or future modifications it is best to have an attorney represent you when children are involved in a divorce.
You have complex and/or valuable marital assets. Although Texas is a community property state, that does not mean all marital property will automatically be split 50-50 during a divorce. If you have significant assets, you need an attorney on your side to ensure that the division of assets is fair and just.
You are seeking alimony. Texas does recognize the right to alimony under certain circumstances; however, it is not routinely awarded like it once was. If you believe you are entitled to alimony you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney to discuss the likelihood of receiving spousal support in your divorce.
Your divorce is already contentious. Some divorces start out amicably while others are contentious from the beginning. If yours is already showing signs of being a long, drawn out process that will result in litigation you should not try and go it alone. You need an attorney on your side from the beginning to ensure that your rights are protected.
Your divorce could turn adversarial overnight. Even a divorce that begins amicably can turn nasty and adversarial overnight. Sometimes all it takes is one issue that both sides cannot agree on to turn an otherwise civil negotiation into a contentious battle. Because there is no way to know if your divorce will turn into a battle at some point, it is always best to protect yourself from the start by retaining the services of an experienced divorce attorney.
If divorce is in your future and you are contemplating representing yourself, contact an experienced Fort Worth divorce attorney at Boyd Family Law to schedule your appointment today.