Divorce is a painful process. There’s no denying that. It’s perfectly acceptable to want to get it over with as quickly as possible. However, it’s important to take a step back and make sure you understand your legal rights and options.
While rushing the divorce process may provide some immediate relief, rash decisions can wreak havoc on your life, especially your finances, for years after the split is final. You need a knowledgeable family law attorney to make sure you are not agreeing to an unreasonable divorce settlement for the sake of expediency. This article touches on some of the most important reasons to get legal counsel if you’re getting a divorce.
Avoid Costly Mistakes
Colorado law doesn’t require divorcing couples to hire attorneys to complete a dissolution of marriage. Indeed, if you have been married less than a year and have no children or hold few assets, you may be OK filing for divorce on your own. Other couples, however, will be best served by getting a divorce attorney.
As it turns out, many clients who seek our help for post-decree matters handled their divorce:
“If I could go back, I never would have done the divorce on my own. Less than a year after it was final, I had to hire a lawyer to fight for my parenting time. Robinson & Henry helped me get equal time with my kids, but it took the better part of a year. It was incredibly stressful, and it wasn’t cheap. If you’ve got kids, do yourself a favor and get a lawyer from the beginning. Don’t chance it. It definitely would have saved me a lot of heartache and money.” Actual Robinson & Henry Client
Post-decree modifications, the changes made after a divorce is final, are often the result of botched agreements or future scenarios not taken into account.
Post-decree modifications are often time-consuming, involve expensive litigation, and difficult to attain. The court is not a fan of changing divorce decrees unless it’s absolutely necessary. In fact, you must satisfy certain legal standards to change parenting time and modify alimony, and this is often difficult to do.
Mistakes made during the divorce process will cost you far more than if you had hired an attorney from the beginning.
Protect Your Rights and Assets
Whether it’s parenting time, property division, asset and debt distribution, or all of the above, you can miss out on what’s legally yours if you don’t know your rights. Here’s a common scenario:
Shortly after Sara and Mike began discussing divorce, Sara noticed her husband started acting weird about money. She’s concerned he’s trying to hide assets. This is illegal in Colorado, by the way, and the court can take different measures to punish a spouse for doing this.
Now, Sara might have a tough time proving her suspicions, but a good attorney can find out whether Mike is hiding assets so that Sara doesn’t lose out on her rightful share.
Also, if your spouse retains an attorney, there should be no question about whether you need one, too. You do. Your spouse’s attorney has a duty to serve their best interests, not yours.
When you hire an attorney, you will gain a zealous ally. Your divorce attorney will advocate for your best interests and help you make informed decisions.
Maintain a Relationship With Your Children
Having to give up time with your children is probably one of the most difficult consequences of divorce.
We see many spouses who are guilted into giving up parenting time. When you have a divorce lawyer at your side, you have an advocate who will make sure you know what your options are and won’t allow you to settle on an arrangement you don’t want.
Get Complicated Laws Clarified
The unknown is frightening, and divorce is rarely straightforward. You risk compromising your divorce settlement if you represent yourself. What you think is fair may not align with the law. And it could take expensive litigation to resolve what could have been an avoidable issue.
When you work with an attorney, you don’t have to worry about trying to interpret the law. You have someone who knows its ins and outs, and that should give you some peace of mind.
Gain Objectivity and Perspective
Divorce brings with it an array of emotions. Whether it’s anger or sadness, many couples end up placing their focus on “winning” instead of achieving a favorable settlement. A lawyer can help you keep your sights on the big picture.
Get Paperwork and Court Procedure Relief
There’s a lot of paperwork to be filled out correctly and submitted on time. If you don’t hire an attorney, you’re on the hook for it. You’ll also have to represent yourself in court. A judge will treat you like an attorney and expect you to know the court process. Fortunately, an attorney can take the administrative work off your hands, prevent delays, and represent you in court.
Obtain Protection from Abuse and Retaliation
Restraining orders during divorce are sought for different reasons. For instance, a spouse who experienced domestic violence may obtain a protection order to thwart retaliatory violence. But divorce can also provoke an angry spouse to seek revenge by trying to get an unwarranted restraining order. Your attorney will advocate for you in either circumstance.
Reduce Uncivil Communication
As expected, not all divorces are amicable. While you can’t stop talking to your spouse altogether, you can have an intermediary when the bickering begins.
If communication devolves into angry words, let your attorney take over. Your lawyer will communicate on your behalf to reduce these kinds of unpleasant interactions and keep the divorce process businesslike.
Get a Fair Alimony Award
Whether you expect to receive alimony or pay it, you want to make sure the duration and amount are fair. You also need to know what type of alimony (technically called spousal maintenance) you’re facing and each one’s pros and cons. Here’s a quick overview:
Court-Ordered Alimony – Generally, the court uses the state’s legal guidelines to create an alimony award that’s based on each party’s income and how long they were married. This kind of alimony can be modified by either party in certain circumstances.
Indefinite Alimony – Often called ‘permanent’ alimony, this is typically only awarded to individuals who were married for longer than 20 years or have a disability that prevents them from earning a living.
Contractual Alimony – Agreed to by both parties, this type of spousal maintenance is a contract and it cannot be modified because of that.
Your attorney will help you decide the best approach to take to get you the best alimony award. Maybe that’s trying to reach an agreement during mediation so the court doesn’t order the payments. Or, it could be contractual alimony.
The bottom line on alimony: you need an attorney who knows the law and how to negotiate, otherwise you could have major regrets down the road.
Understand the Effects of Recent Tax Reform
The taxation of alimony on federal tax returns recently changed because of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA). Today, alimony or separate maintenance payments relating to any divorce or separation agreements dated Jan. 1, 2019 or later are not tax-deductible by the person paying the alimony. The person receiving the alimony also does not have to report the alimony received as taxable income.
Prior to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, alimony payments were tax-deductible by the person making the payment. The person receiving the alimony had to claim it as income on their federal tax return.
If you’re the spouse who expects to pay maintenance, this is a topic you’ll definitely want to explore with your attorney.
Reduce Complications of High Net Worth & Over-50 Divorces
High net worth and late-life divorces are considered complex cases. These divorces face unique issues that other divorces don’t, such as substantial real estate holdings, impending retirement, and permanent alimony considerations.
Financial disclosures are a first step to identifying the amount of assets in any marriage. There’s a lot at stake in a high-net worth divorce, which can lead to hidden assets. And if one spouse has a majority of assets and financial responsibility, the other spouse may not know what’s actually out there. A divorce attorney can call on other professionals to uncover hidden or forgotten assets and make sure all property is appropriately valued.
In so-called ‘gray divorces’, couples don’t have to have been married for 20 years or more to end up with indefinite alimony. If you and your spouse have been married for, say, six years, and one of you has no retirement or cannot work, the court could order life-time alimony for the disabled or less fortunate spouse.
The takeaway here: if you’re in one of these categories, a divorce lawyer can help you secure your financial future.
You Need a Divorce Attorney
There are a myriad of reasons why hiring a divorce attorney is a better investment of your time and money than going at it alone. The R&H family law attorneys know the intricacies of the law and the exceptions to the rules. Call 303-688-0944 today to begin your case assessment.