Do you need to hire a mechanic when your car breaks down? No; if you know what you’re doing under the hood, if you understand the complex machinery and know what steps you need to take to get your car safely running again, you don’t need a mechanic. Of course, if you don’t know a carburetor from a cup-holder, trying to do it yourself could lead to disaster on the road and wind up costing you much more than if you had gone to a mechanic in the first place.
The same principle applies to hiring an experienced lawyer if you are considering a divorce. Do you need to hire a lawyer if you’re getting divorced in Colorado? No you don’t; the law does not require you to have an attorney. But proceeding without one comes with serious risks. If you try to represent yourself in your divorce, no matter how amicable the split may be, your rights as a spouse and as a parent could be trampled upon, and you could find yourself on the receiving or giving end of financial arrangements that are significantly worse than they would be if you had a lawyer guiding you through the process.
Divorce is Complicated
The laws, rules, and procedures involved in Colorado divorces can be overwhelming, even for otherwise talented lawyers who practice in other areas of the law. Matters such as child custody and support, visitation, spousal maintenance, and property division are all governed by lengthy factors and formulas and will directly impact your future, both while your divorce is pending and in the years ahead. If you don’t know how things work, and if you don’t know what you don’t know, it can be easy to get steamrolled. The judge will expect you to understand how the process works and follow the rules just as an attorney would. If your spouse has their own lawyer, this will put you at a significant disadvantage.
“Friendly” Does Not Equal Fair
Sometimes, people getting a divorce don’t think they need a lawyer because they have largely reached agreement with their spouse on the key issues in their divorce. But have you addressed every issue? Have you considered all options? Do you know the difference between what you may be entitled to under the law and what you are agreeing to?
The settlement agreement you enter into will ultimately become a court order that will define your rights and obligations for years. No matter how “friendly” your divorce is, your spouse’s lawyer represents your spouse only. He or she is there to protect their interests, not yours. They cannot offer you advice or guidance on what is best for you. Your divorce lawyer can make sure that any agreement is fair, equitable, and based on a complete and accurate picture of your finances and those of your spouse.
Your Spouse May Have to Help Pay for Your Lawyer
But those finances can be wildly different for each spouse at the beginning of the divorce process. One party may have all or most of the income, assets, and resources that allow them to pay for the divorce attorney of their choice while the other spouse has little to nothing and certainly can’t afford a top-notch divorce lawyer.
Colorado law recognizes the unfairness of this situation. That’s why a spouse who can’t afford a lawyer can ask the court to direct the other spouse to pay for one. Given this possibility, a belief that you can’t pay for attorney’s fees should not deter you from seeking to retain a divorce lawyer.
Even if you pay for your own divorce lawyer, the investment you are making will pay dividends today and tomorrow. Your lawyer will be your ally, advisor, and advocate during one of the most impactful periods of your life. The peace of mind that comes from knowing that you have a committed and skilled divorce attorney on your side protecting you and your children is simply invaluable.