When do you really NEED an attorney to get divorced?
There is no requirement that you have an attorney represent either party in a divorce case, but sometimes it really makes things easier. I've also seen unfortunate things happen to people who don't know what they need to tell a judge. Not everything can be fixed after the fact.
When you have minor children.In Georgia, when you have minor children, you have to file a Parenting Plan, a Child Support Addendum, and Child Support Worksheets. I can absolutely point you to the places where to get these forms online, since they are requried, BUT they can be really confusing if you don't complete them all the time.
When I first saw the Parenting Plan Order form used in Gwinnett County, I couldn't figure out how to complete it. I had to read it through 3 times before it began to make sense. Since then, I've completed a lot of Parenting Plans, and they no longer confuse me. I still remember that confusion though. Your Parenting Plan impacts your every day life as it sets out how your children will travel between their parents' households. It's very important, and there are things that should be included, but aren't on the standard forms.
And then, there are the child support documents. Again, these are forms that you can complete on your own, but they are complicated and can be difficult. I've gone to classes just on how to fill out these forms. In fact, I teach a class that includes how to complete the child support worksheet.
It isn't impossible to complete these forms on your own, but I can do it quickly and easily as I do them all the time
When you own a houseIf you own a house, or a time share, or a piece of vacant land - any real estate - it is important to have an attorney help you with your divorce. If there is something wrong in your divorce decree or Agreement about your real estate, your Judge cannot change the provisions in your divorce decree if you and your ex-spouse do not agree. They can't fix it in the future, if the time to file an appeal or Motion to Reconsider has passed.
I had someone come to me that had gotten divorced several years ago. Their divorce decree didn't mention the house they jointly owned with their now ex-spouse, because at the time of the divorce they both agreed they wanted to keep the house, so they never mentioned the house to the Judge at their hearing. Now they want to sell the house, but they can't agree on the provisions. They came and met with me to see what they needed to do in order to sell the house.
The answer was, there was nothing I could do, unles the other person agreed on how the house was to be handled in the future. If they could reach an agreement, I could draft it up so that it was enforceable in the future, but since they didn't mention the house to the judge, I couldn't do anything with the language that is currently in the divorce decree.
As an experienced attorney, I have seen a lot of Agreements go wrong after they are drafted. People change their minds. One spouse refuses to cooperate, becomes unfindable, or worse dies. Other things can go wrong as well. I can use my experience to draft provisions in your Agreement to hopefully cover whatever happens in the future, so that there are enforceable provisions to protect you.
When you have financial assets or debts to divideHopefully you and your spouse have financial assets to divide. If so, you want to make sure that the assets are divided the right way, the first time, with as little cost to you as possible. Just as the judge can't change the decree if it doesn't mention how to sell the marital house, the judge can't change the decree if it doesn't mention something important on dividing the assets.
What if your spouse doesn't pay the QDRO atorney? What is a QDRO anyway? Do you need a QDRO to divide this asset? My spouse said they would give me part of their pension, but the pension company says they can't divide it. It is best to determine all these questions before you sign an Agreement or have an Order enered. (These are all questions about dividing retirement accounts, by the way.)
Also, if you have debts that need to be divided between you and your spouse, you want to make sure the Agreement says who is going to pay what, when, and how. Also, the paperwork needs to say what is going to happen if they fail to make the payments as agreed.
What if I can't afford an Attorney, what do I do? Can I make my spouse pay?First, some attorneys will represent people on a limited scope basis. If your spouse or their attorney, has prepared a Settlement Agreement, some attorneys will review the Agreement and tell you if it is okay to sign, or if you need to think about some other issues.
If you are dependent on your spouse for financial support, there is a process to ask the Court for your spouse to pay your attorneys fees. I would definitely recommend getting an attorney to file that motion and argue for you in court on that issue.