Divorcing spouses who face disputes over their children, complex financial issues or domestic violence situations may benefit from legal assistance.
Self-representation during divorce has become an increasingly common option for people in Chicago to consider. Many spouses may see this approach as a way to reduce legal expenses and maintain full control over the separation. However, "do-it-yourself divorce" poses unavoidable risks, and it may be an especially unfavorable choice in the following cases.
1. Complex financial picture
Couples who possess substantial assets, own complex property or have significant economic disparities often face unique complications during the division of marital property and awarding of financial support. These complications include:
- Inventorying all property and characterizing it as marital or separate
- Valuating the worth of complex assets, such as professional practices
- Assessing each spouse's income to determine appropriate amounts of spousal and child support
- Evaluating the impacts of any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements on the settlement
An attorney may be able to help a spouse avoid oversights and accidental misrepresentations that may hurt the spouse's case.
2. Disputes involving children
When parents cannot reach an agreement on issues such as child custody arrangements, visitation or relocation, these matters must be decided in court. Unfortunately, these disputes can be distressing to children and costly, since parents may be required to pay for the services of professionals such as a guardian ad litem. As a result, parents can often benefit from working with a lawyer who can help negotiate a settlement that is agreeable to both parties.
If court proceedings cannot be avoided, an attorney can play an invaluable role in presenting a parent's case more accurately. Family law courts take many factors into account to find the arrangement that is in each child's best interests, including the wishes and health of both parents, the parent-child relationship and each parent's ability to cooperate with the other. A lawyer can help ensure that a parent's actions are not misconstrued or misrepresented during this process.
3. Domestic violence
Domestic violence affects thousands of people in Illinois each year. Per the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, just in 2014, nearly 65,800 incidents occurred throughout Illinois. Since many cases go unreported, this violence may be even more common.
People who are in the process of divorcing an abusive spouse may face several unique concerns, including obtaining a protective order. An attorney can offer guidance in this area and also make sure that the other spouse's history of violence is properly considered during the divorce proceedings. For example, state law provides that an abusive spouse may be denied parenting time or restricted to supervised parenting time when child custody is determined.
Get a second opinion
Before ruling out the option of seeking legal help, spouses in Illinois should consider at least reviewing their case with a lawyer. This may help a person evaluate whether self-representation is really a suitable choice, given the potential complications that his or her divorce may present.