The question of whether or not you need an attorney to represent you in your divorce is as old as the divorce itself, at least in this country. The thought being that why not save money and avoid the hassle of working with a family law attorney when you could perform the same actions yourself. Getting a divorce is not rocket science or brain surgery, after all. Isn’t it just filing some papers at the courthouse and letting the process take itself forward from there? While it’s true that I wouldn’t argue getting a divorce is difficult as performing brain surgery, the long-term implications of a divorce and the subject matter of your case are just as important as any medical issues or other topics in your life.
In today’s blog post, I will share my thoughts on preparing for divorce, establishing a strong mindset for your divorce, and ultimately whether or not you need an attorney to represent you to accomplish those goals. The trouble with tackling such an important subject like this in a blog post intended for the general audience is that I frankly do not know all of your circumstances. I don’t know, for instance, how many children you have or how much property is at stake to be divided in this case. What I do know is that you need to carefully examine your family circumstances in the long-term implications of a divorce before deciding to hire a lawyer.
Preparing for divorce: what to do in what to avoid
for today’s blog post, I’m going to write with the assumption in mind that your divorce is going to happen. Rather than talk to you about efforts to mitigate the effects of getting divorced or even talk about things like counseling or therapy, we will be discussing this topic today with the mindset of a divorce that is very surely going to happen. But that said, as a divorce is now on your radar and it’s looking more and more like a certainty, you need to be able to consider what to do to prepare for a change in your life.
Many people wander into a divorce not knowing what to expect or having done zero planning. To me, this is the most significant mistake you can make at any point in your case. Problems at the beginning of a case and issues with developing a strategy to accomplish goals ruin more divorce cases for people than any other factor. You may not be the most enthusiastic divorce participant. Still, regardless of your opinions on the subject, if a divorce happens, you need to be an engaged and goal-oriented individual as you process all the other changes that come about as the result of divorce.
For instance, have you ever thought about goals for your divorce? I don’t mean arriving at a goal to do something like make it out of your case alive. I think that is a goal, and it is fair to say that everyone who goes through a divorce would like to achieve it. Rather, I am talking more about developing goals that focus your energy on doing things that will move your life forward and benefit your children. It is not enough to simply do what you have to do and go through the motions to complete the case.
Rather, I would recommend beginning to compile a list of achievable goals and desired results for you to be guided by as you take on the challenges of your divorce. This can be difficult if you don’t know the first thing about divorce. For this, I would recommend reading our blog, and you will find a great deal of information on every possible area of divorce that you could think of. Use this resource to determine whether or not divorce is right for you and what you need to achieve in your divorce to be content and two cause success for your family now and in the future.
As far as I can tell, there are 2 main areas to a divorce: property division and child custody. If you don’t have children, you will not be overly concerned with the child custody aspects of divorce. For folks like you, there is only one area of divorce to be concerned with. For all the parents out there who are going through a divorce, you need to divide your life into two aspects: property division and your kids.
Texas is a Community property state. This means that all property at the time of your divorce is presumed to be owned jointly by you and your spouse, with each of you owning full portions of any piece of property. If you purchased your family home during your marriage, preceded to pay it off, and consider what will happen to the home in the divorce, you should know the entire T of that home is owned equally by you and your spouse. This means that the house is subject to division, and it does not matter if it was your income that went towards paying the house off in the 1st place.
The same applies to other properties like your vehicles, personal effects, vestment accounts, retirement accounts, and checking and savings accounts. The finer points of Community property law will dictate how your case proceeds from the perspective of dividing up the contents of your home and your financial accounts. These are critical decisions to make, and you should have an idea of how you want to see this process be achieved, bearing in mind the rest of your life.
For instance, have you been a stay-at-home mother for 20 years who has not ventured out into the workforce at any time since you were younger? If so, you will want to preserve your right to retain as much of your Community property as it’s possible and ensure that you can make it from a financial standpoint in the immediate months and years after your divorce. Determining whether or not you can negotiate for these types of provisions in your divorce is something that we will be discussing later.
Next, as a parent, you will need to consider what your divorce will look like from the perspective of determining issues regarding child custody, Visitation, possession, and child support, among other subjects. Child custody aspects of a divorce do not simply mean beginning to consider how to divide up time with your kids and figure out who pays who child support. Every aspect of your child’s life now and their future lives will be considered in the divorce. You need to be able to plan for your family’s short-term, medium-term, and long-term future when it comes to your children in this divorce.
There is a heightened need to adequately plan for your child’s life after your divorce, especially if they suffer from a physical or mental disability. If your child requires ongoing medical attention and care, then this will not only impact how often each parent can see your child but also how medical costs are paid, reimbursements for costs paid over and above the agreement in your final decree of divorce chains regarding obtaining health insurance and things of this nature. That’s not even to mention how to divide up decision-making rights on behalf of your child regarding their education and physical health.
Another important consideration is regarding which parent, you, or your spouse will become the primary conservator of your children after the divorce. For the most part, the primary conservator is in the driver’s seat when it comes to making decisions on behalf of your child, seeing your child throughout the year more frequently, and being able to receive rather than pay child support payments. If you and your spouse are not in agreement on this subject, then this is a leading cause of divorces needing to go all the way to a divorce trial to sort them out.
How to establish goals for divorce
once you have considered the most important factors in your particular divorce case, you need to consider how you will go about accomplishing whatever goals you have for your case. Doing so could be as simple as taking out a legal pad and a pen and jotting down your thoughts, or could be as complex as using spreadsheets and long-term projections to make educated guesses about what is best for your family now and in the future. However, determine your goals for the case is up to you. What is important is that you need to have goals and have them be well defined.
Once you have goals, the next step towards achieving those goals is to develop a strategy. Developing a strategy means being intentional. Being intentional means not taking any aspect of your case for granted and instead allowing yourself to prepare adequately and think strategically throughout the case. Everything you do, say, and negotiate on should be directed towards achieving a certain end. This may seem obvious to you now, but I’m here to tell you that other circumstances come up in divorce cases with a regularity that can distract you from accomplishing your ultimate goals.
While it is easy for me to say that divorce is a business transaction, the reality is that you have emotion and ego tied up in your case. I don’t tell you this as if it’s a bad thing, either. This is the reality of how you and your family will handle your divorce and that you need to be aware of your propensity to let ego and emotion determine your actions versus how rationality could end up benefiting you and your family. Things will happen in your divorce that annoy you and may outright infuriate you. If you can look past these temporary roadblocks and instead remain focused on your ultimate goals, you will be better off.
When you get right down to it, this may be the most important consideration you need to make in your case when it comes to whether or not to hire A divorce attorney. The simple truth is that your case is nothing without goals. While it is true that you can get divorced without having any goals in mind, your divorce will merely be an exercise in frustration, time, and money being spent. Well, I wouldn’t say that divorce was a goal that cannot do anything positive for you. The effect of a divorce on the positive side is truly mitigated if you do not take your case seriously and act intentionally.
Who do you need a lawyer to help you with your divorce?
This will be the central focus of the rest of our blog post today: do you need to hire an attorney to represent you in your divorce? Bearing in mind all of the foregoing information that we’ve discussed in today’s blog post, you should have a better idea now of whether or not your case calls for a lawyer. I will give you my general thoughts on the subject and then apply the content of today’s blog post to the question as well.
In general, the less you have at stake in the divorce, the less of a need for you to have an attorney represent you. For instance, if you and your spouse have been married a short time, do not have children, and have little to no property between yourselves, then your need to hire an attorney is much less than a typical person going through a divorce. The reason is that you have less at stake, and the stakes are much lower as a result. A mistake here or there will not cost you near as much as it would a person who has children and a significant amount of property with their spouse.
If you are willing to devote a fair bit of time to proceed with your case on your own, do not mind making mistakes and then having to correct them or need to end the relationship legally. You may be better suited to represent yourself in a divorce than to hire an attorney. I’m going to provide you with similar advice in a moment. Still, you should always consider speaking with an experienced family law attorney before deciding to represent yourself in a divorce. Consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys is free of charge and can make a big difference when it comes to helping you decide whether or not to hire a lawyer.
On the other hand, if you have any children, then I recommend you hire an attorney. I can see almost no circumstance involving a divorce with children that would benefit you by not having an attorney by your side. The relationship with your children is the most important thing to you. By the same token, your spouse’s relationship with your children is also likely to be the most important thing to them. When you have two people in this position, then you need to be sure that you have well-defined goals in a strategy to achieve those goals. If not, then your spouse will be at a distinct advantage in the relationship with your children will likely suffer as a result.
Additionally, even if you do not have children but have a significant amount of property between you and your spouse, I also would recommend hiring an attorney. Money isn’t the only thing in life, and it is far from the most important thing period; however, if you have worked hard and saved money and accomplish many goals from a financial perspective, then you will not want to leave it to chance to see what happens with your hard work in the divorce.
Additionally, the laws regarding Community property in Texas can be peculiar and require inexperienced when it comes to sorting them out and applying them to your particular circumstances. Again, there is no need to leave it to chance or to cause yourself undue stress when it comes to needing advice on handling particular issues regarding Community property. For such a big topic in your divorce, we think that spouses entering into the process do not take this subject as seriously as they probably should. Do not let yourself be that person and take advantage of an attorney’s expertise and experience.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog postcontact the LawOffice of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and two be able to anticipate how your circumstances may change by the filing of a child custody or divorce case.