The short answer? Yes. Here’s why.
We understand that you have put a lot of time and emotional energy into trying to agree on how to divide things up. It isn’t an easy thing to do, especially if there are children involved or you have a lot of assets or liabilities to consider. Unfortunately, we know there are many unintended consequences of a do-it-yourself divorce settlement.
If you and your spouse are able to agree on how to divide your assets and establish custody and visitation, you will have an incredible advantage when you first meet with a lawyer. But, this will be a place to start your divorce process, not finish it. A DIY divorce, or an uncontested divorce, still requires certain guidance from an experienced family law attorney.
What Are You Missing When Going The Do It Yourself Divorce?
It’s great that you and your spouse can reach an agreement amid filing for divorce. But couples can and do make common, yet expensive, mistakes when they fail to meet with a divorce lawyer and instead opt for a DIY divorce:
- Taxes: All assets and liabilities are not equal for tax purposes. For example, the cash value of funds in a retirement account is not the same as the cash value of funds in a savings account. If, instead of dividing both accounts equally, each person takes the whole of one or another, one could incur a greater tax burden in the present or future.
- Asset values: Some assets have growth potential over time. Perhaps one spouse put in a lot of “sweat equity” to a joint business that will be extremely profitable in a few years’ time. If one spouse will continue operating the business and buy out the other, the value of the buyout should be based on the income it will produce in the future, not what it is producing today. The value of the business is in a future income stream.
- Children and support: It is commendable when parents can work out custody and visitation schedules for their children. Agreeing on these things makes a divorce easier on the entire family. However, the law protects children’s interests in a divorce situation. Parents will need to ensure that the children are in a safe environment and that the continue to receive an education, proper health care, financial support and a consistent standard of living so they can live their lives as close to how they have in the past.
Meet With a Divorce Attorney Before Signing an Agreement With Your Spouse
During a divorce, you are vulnerable and want to have this over and done with as soon as possible. That is exactly why you should consult with a lawyer before doing anything or agreeing to any settlement.
A divorce lawyer can explain to you what your agreement will mean in “real life” for you, over the short term and long term. It is better and much less expensive to understand the consequences of what you’ve informally agreed to with your spouse now, than after the divorce is final.
Your lawyer can also help craft your divorce settlement to ensure it matches your agreement. If your agreement is missing key elements or misstating certain items, changing it before court is possible. Now, you can still change the terms of your agreement. If you find errors after you finalize your divorce, you may have to hire a lawyer, file a motion for modification, and potentially attend a hearing.
Contact us to discuss the agreement you’ve worked out with your spouse before it is too late. We are here to help you and will ensure that your spouse is not taking advantage of you or improperly valuing or hiding any assets or liabilities to which you are entitled or assigned.