If you find yourself contemplating divorce, you will also likely be wondering if you need to hire a lawyer to represent you during the legal proceedings. You are not required to hire an attorney when you go through a divorce; however, for many people the benefits of retaining an attorney far outweigh the cost. To help you decide if you should hire a lawyer when faced with a divorce, a Murfreesboro divorce attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby answers the question “How can a divorce lawyer near me help during my divorce?”
Understanding the Divorce Process in Tennessee
To decide if you need a lawyer, you must first know what to expect when going through a divorce in Tennessee. Some common steps in the divorce process include:
- Initiating the divorce process. One spouse (the Petitioner) must file a Complaint for Divorce with the appropriate court that includes basic information about the marriage and asks the court to grant a divorce.
- Service, Answer, and Default. The other spouse (the Respondent) is served with the Complaint and a Summons. The Respondent then has a limited amount of time within which to file a written Answer or he/she forfeits the right to participate in the divorce proceedings. Is an Answer is not filed the Petitioner can ask for a default judgment.
- Discovery. If the divorce is contested, meaning there are any issues in dispute, the parties engage in “discovery” which involves an exchange of relevant information and documents.
- Settlement, Mediation, and Trial. The parties may reach a Marital Settlement Agreement that resolves all issues in the divorce and that must be approved by the court. If an agreement does not appear to be forthcoming, the court may encourage mediation. If that results in an agreement, the agreement may be submitted to the court. If it becomes clear that a settlement cannot be reached, the case will be scheduled for trial where a judge or jury will decide the issues in dispute.
Benefits of Hiring a Divorce Lawyer
Some people call a lawyer the minute they see a divorce coming while others shy away from the idea of hiring a lawyer. Unless you have a very simple divorce with no children and modest assets and you and your spouse have already reached an agreement that covers everything, hiring a lawyer is wise. Among the many benefits of hiring a lawyer to help you during your divorce are the following:
- Advice and guidance. Understanding your rights in a divorce is imperative to ensure that the division of property is fair, parenting time and child support terms are as they should be, and you do not end up with too much debt or too little support.
- Language and law. Yes, you can find fill-in-the blank divorce forms on the internet; however, those forms are generic in nature and cannot tell you what to put in the blanks. When it comes to the terms of a divorce, the language you use in legal documents can dramatically impact your financial future and that of your children (if you have any). A lawyer understands the law and the language that needs to be used to accurately reduce an agreement to writing and/or to protect your rights in other court documents.
- Protecting your interests. Emotions tend to run high during a divorce, making it difficult to think logically. That could mean that you make unrealistic demands because you are angry/hurt or that you give up way too much simply because you want the divorce to be over during the negotiation process. An experienced lawyer can help protect your interests and make sure you are being realistic throughout the divorce process.
- Cost-effective. Divorce typically impacts the finances of both parties (often unequally) for several years after the divorce is finished. The best way to make sure you are protected financially in a divorce is to have an experienced divorce lawyer on your side fighting for a fair division of marital property as well as a fair child and/or alimony award.
How Do I Contact a Divorce Lawyer Near Me?