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Should I Get a Lawyer Before Filing for Divorce?

by | Apr 8, 2022

The divorce filing process is one of the most emotional and complex processes in family law. It is not just about leaving the person you married, but there are issues of assets, children, and division of property to deal with. The amount of paperwork, negotiations, and rules involved can sometimes get overwhelming. That is why most people are usually looking to get the process completed as fast as possible so they can move on with their lives. 

Getting divorced can be easier if the spouses don’t have any children or many assets. You may not even need a divorce attorney to help you through the process. Many people can handle the process by themselves or through a mediator. However, the process can get complicated when assets, properties, and children are involved and spouses disagree on alimony, distribution, and custody matters.

It is easier to get divorced when you understand the divorce process and what is ahead of you… but if you are unsure about the divorce filing process and whether or not it is necessary to hire a divorce lawyer, keep reading to find out.

Should I Get a Lawyer Before I File for Divorce?

When a marriage has broken down irretrievably, either of the spouses can file a divorce petition in court, which is then sent to the respondent spouse. No state has a mandatory requirement for spouses to hire divorce lawyers, but hiring one before starting the process and before signing off makes sense. If you and your spouse can agree on matters (children custody, support, division of property), you can file for divorce without engaging an attorney. 

There are some self-help forms and instructions provided by the divorce court to help you through the DIY divorce process. However, even in an uncontested divorce filing, it is advisable to have a divorce attorney review your divorce paperwork and ascertain that your interests and rights are protected. Each one of you will need to engage their own lawyers. Depending on your state, you may not even require a court hearing, but for the cases where there are minor children involved.

If you two can’t agree on child custody and support matters, distribution of property, and alimony, you probably need to engage a divorce attorney. Take your time, so you hire the right one depending on your divorce filing situation. You can hire an attorney to help you work out a divorce agreement or hire one to help you face and battle your spouse in court.

You may need to hire a divorce lawyer before filing for divorce if:

  • You suspect your spouse is being vindictive or lying about some issues.
  • There is a problem of violence or abuse.
  • There are children involved. 
  • There are complicated property and financial matters.
  • Your spouse has hired an attorney.

Basic Steps for Divorce Filing

1. File your petition

When your mind’s made up on dissolving the marriage, you start the divorce process by filing a divorce petition. You must first meet all residency requirements of the state you are filing in. Your grounds for divorce must be legally acceptable, either no-fault-based or fault-based. No-fault-based grounds include irretrievable breakdowns or irreconcilable differences. Fault-based grounds include cruel treatment or adultery. Wisconsin is a “no fault” divorce state, which means neither spouse must prove that the other has done anything wrong, and only one spouse must testify under oath that he or she believes that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

You can obtain the divorce petition from the Clerk of Court or the state’s family, which you should then submit after filling up together with any attachments that may be required. You can file a petition to divorce either alone or jointly with your spouse.

2. Serve Your Spouse

After filing your divorce papers, you will need to serve your spouse with copies of the divorce petition and summons. This is called “service of process” and officially notifies your spouse that you have initiated divorce proceedings. It would be best to serve them as stipulated by the state laws. Some states allow you to serve your spouse via certified mail or a private service company.

3. Response filing by a spouse

How your divorce petition proceeds will depend on how your spouse responds to the divorce complaint once they are served. Your spouse can respond to the petition statements by filing an acceptance or rejection. Here are possibilities of what may happen:

  • If your spouse agrees to all the statements and conditions on children and property sharing in the divorce papers, they should confirm this by signing and sending back the papers to the court or you. Such a scenario is what is called an “uncontested divorce.” 
  • If a considerable amount of time passes without your spouse signing the divorce papers or filing their divorce papers, your divorce application can continue as an uncontested one. Consult a divorce lawyer if you are unsure of how long you should wait for your spouse to respond to your divorce papers. After, you may proceed with the divorce application as an uncontested one.
  • If your spouse disagrees with the statements in the divorce papers, they have the opportunity to file their own papers, clearly detailing the outcome that they want. This is what is called a “contested divorce .”The spouse may agree to dissolve the marriage but disagree on other issues like finances, property, and children’s custody. 
  • When your spouse has issues with the divorce papers, you might be required to attend court hearings and have a judge decide on the contentious issues. The court may order a mediation process to agree on the matters of support, custody, placement, and property division you and your spouse wait for your divorce hearing.

4. Court decision

If parties still disagree on divorce on the divorce settlement even in mediation, the matter will proceed to court, where the court will rule on any outstanding issues. As you wait, you can still work on finalizing the divorce settlement terms to ensure that the divorce terms are agreeable. Usually, you are allowed to submit the divorce settlement agreement before the court can rule.

If you read this and still wonder if you need a divorce lawyer, there is a high probability that you do. Hiring a divorce lawyer will push up your divorce cost, but it will have saved you time, a lot of stress and help you protect your rights. Contact us a Vanden Heuvel & Dineen S.C. today to talk through any further questions you may have. Your first consultation is always free.

Written by Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C.

Divorce | Family Law

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