One of the first decisions to be made when you have decided to divorce is whether or not to use a lawyer. Many couples balk at the expense of a lawyer, and opt for a DIY divorce or choose to share one attorney. However, the advantages of having a lawyer-one that represents you alone-are well worth the investment, especially if you have important issues (children, money, property, etc.) at stake. Here's what your money really buys when you hire a divorce lawyer. Legal Expertise It's something of an obvious point, but the primary benefit of having a divorce lawyer is his or her in-depth knowledge of divorce law. Disentangling a marriage is usually a complex endeavor involving finances, property, and oftentimes children and/or pets. Dozens of decisions must be made during a divorce, and an attorney can guide you through the legal ins and outs, explain your options, and then follow through with the appropriate paperwork. An Emotional Buffer Even if your divorce is amicable, there will be times when your emotions will be overwhelming. Unfortunately, most divorces are contentious, and the strength of the emotions that people experience can make it extremely difficult to negotiate and make decisions with their exes. Your attorney, however, provides an emotional buffer that allows things to progress more smoothly. Two lawyers with no emotional stake in the process can reach agreements on your behalf that you and your ex might never be able to accomplish. Custody One of the most crucial aspects of a divorce is how it affects the children, including custody arrangements, child support payments, and visitation. The involvement of children is one of the most important reasons to have separate divorce attorneys. They will negotiate custody arrangements and ensure that the final agreement is in the best interests of the children. Rights Without the guidance of an experienced divorce lawyer, you may unknowingly give up some of your rights. You can't fight for rights if you are unaware of them, but a divorce lawyer will advise you as to your rights throughout the process and ensure that they are protected. Negotiation Negotiations over the division of property, child custody, spousal support, and even who gets which pet all require mediation skills, knowledge of the law and no emotional bias. A big part of a divorce lawyer's job is to negotiate on your behalf and obtain the best possible settlement for you. Time Nobody wants a divorce to take longer than it has to, and an advantage to having a divorce lawyer is that he or she knows exactly what must be done and when, ensuring that the divorce proceeds in a timely and efficient manner. DIY divorces can end up dragging on and on as a result of having a poor understanding of the law and paperwork, an inability to negotiate, or an emotional upheaval. A divorce lawyer will make sure things progress smoothly and in a timely manner. Perspective Your divorce lawyer has probably seen it all and, therefore, has more perspective than most people are able to obtain in the midst of a divorce. Your lawyer will approach your divorce with a clear head and the big picture in mind, which is extremely helpful when you are making decisions and negotiating with your ex. Protection Some divorces are a result of domestic abuse, or become dangerous as a result of the breakup. If you or your children feel threatened by your ex, your divorce attorney can help protect you through legal means, such as with a restraining order. You may also need the help of an attorney for the protection of your children, especially when it comes to custody and visitation. A divorce lawyer knows what to do to keep you and your children safe.