For most people, it takes months, if not years, of contemplation and introspection before deciding to end a marriage. Sometimes the decision is mutual, while in other situations it is very one-sided. If you are at the point where divorce is inevitable, the next question on your mind is likely whether or not you need a divorce attorney. There is no law or rule that requires you to be represented by an attorney and it may be tempting to try the pro se (self-represented) route if it appears that your spouse is willing to reach an agreement about all important issues in the divorce. Before you make the decision to forego legal counsel, consider the following five reasons you need a divorce attorney.
- You are not familiar with the court rules and procedures. Unless you are an attorney yourself, there is no reason you would be aware of the fact that there are formal court rules and rules of civil procedure that apply to all litigants in a courtroom. The judge and court staff will expect you to be familiar with these rules despite the fact that you are not an attorney. In other words, you will not be given much leeway if you make a procedural mistake or miss a deadline just because you are proceeding pro se. If you fail to properly serve your spouse with the divorce complaint using one of the acceptable methods outlined in the rules, for example, your divorce cannot move forward. A divorce attorney does know and understand all applicable rules and procedures.
- You don’t know the law. The same explanation applies to your likely lack of knowledge about the laws that apply to divorce. For example, you probably know that Tennessee is not a community property state; however, what does that mean exactly? Will a judge let you have the marital residence? Do you have to re-finance? Are you required to give your spouse joint custody? What does the law say about who has to repay marital debts or debts you had prior to the marriage? The odds are good that you will need to know where the law stands on something during the course of your divorce which means you need a divorce attorney.
- Your amicable divorce could turn adversarial overnight. Ideally, you and your spouse will work out all of the issues in your divorce and reduce that agreement to writing in a Marital Settlement Agreement that the court will approve. If your spouse appears willing to go that route, great. Unfortunately, however, it can be a long road from “willing to go that route” to the final decree of divorce. In the meantime an endless number of events could occur that turn your amicable divorce into an adversarial battle overnight. At that point, you will wish you had an attorney on board already.
- You need someone looking out for you and your rights. When it comes to litigation – and divorce is litigation – the maxim “you don’t know what you don’t know” is important to remember. All too often, people give up way too much or fail to protect their own rights in an effort to keep the peace during a divorce. You probably even have rights you don’t know you have. A divorce attorney does know your rights and will make sure they are protected.
- Trying to handle it yourself is time-consuming and emotionally exhausting. Like any litigation, the divorce process is riddled with mandatory forms and documents that must be completed, filed, and served on the opposing party. Along with taking up a considerable amount of your valuable time, trying to take care of all this yourself is akin to pulling the scab off of a healing wound – and doing it over and over again. Why put yourself through that when a divorce attorney can do it for you?
Contact a Tennessee Divorce Attorney
If you are contemplating divorce in the State of Tennessee, do not go it alone. At least take the time to consult with an experienced Tennessee divorce attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.