Never assume that because you are allowed to handle your own divorce in your area that this is a good choice for you. Writing up your own divorce agreement may save you and your spouse some money at the time, but it can actually be costly down the road. Note how lawyers can help you through a divorce proceeding and why their services are actually the better financial choice.
1. Ambiguous wording can cost you
Suppose you're trying to write up the terms of spousal support you'll pay and include a time when the support will stop. You might note that if you lose your job, payments will stop while you're unemployed. However, what would happen after you get another job? Would those months you didn't pay support then be added on to end of the term, or would your spouse simply go without support for the time you're unemployed? If you word your agreement that you would pay your spouse for a specific number of weeks or months, the courts might assume that you need to keep paying past this timeframe until you fulfilled that number.
This is just one example of how ambiguous wording can affect a divorce settlement. Your intention and how the courts interpret your document can be very different. This can cost either party down the road if a disagreement arises and the courts need to intervene.
2. You may not be anticipating financial changes
What if the spouse paying support doesn't lose their job but gets one that pays significantly more money; would that affect their support payments? One spouse may take on more of their joint debt at the time of a divorce because they earn significantly more money, but what if the other spouse then gets a high-paying job or inherits a large sum of money? Would they then be responsible for some of that debt they helped to create during the marriage? A good lawyer who is experienced in divorces can anticipate financial and employment changes that affect many divorced couples and know how to write them into a divorce decree.
3. Lawyers can argue against support altogether
In many areas, a spouse may get support if they have not worked in years, but lawyers can argue about their ability to work, not just whether or not they have worked. If a wife has been supporting her husband for some time while he refuses to get a job, she may not be obligated to continue to support him after a divorce, and the same can be said for a husband supporting a wife that can now reasonably support herself. Lawyers can argue to the courts that this person has the ability to work, so they may not be given much financial support, if any, during a divorce.
It may seem like a good financial decision to handle your own case, but in the long run you'll probably save more money by spending a little bit now for a lawyer.