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Can I file for a New Jersey Divorce Without Hiring an Attorney?

Finances are a top concern among divorcing couples, so finding ways to spare a few pennies makes sense. There is no law that requires anyone to hire a divorce attorney. It can seem an especially tempting option if this is an uncontested divorce with no children and little property. However, like the old saying goes, just because youcan doesn’t mean you should.

Matching invites and bouquets aside, it’s relatively easy to say, “I do.” Saying “I don’t,” however, is another matter.

Those who go at it alone often find out it ends up costing them more in the long run, even finding out later on that they could have obtained a much more equitable outcome if they’d had someone on their side who knew the law and New Jersey divorce procedure.

Divorcing is More Complex Than You Think

A recent three-year study by Harvard Law School’s Access to Justice Lab revealed that when legal aid groups gave self-help materials to divorce seekers keen on representing themselves, only 14 percent managed to successfully divorce after 18 months, compared to 54 percent who were given access to a lawyer.

As noted by the co-author of the study, most of these aren’t explained away by pointing to some complex entanglement, such as child custody, support or alimony. In fact, most of the subjects didn’t have much to fight about in terms of assets or property. The analysis underscores just how convoluted the divorce process can be.

These findings were backed in an earlier 2016 survey that revealed self-represented individuals getting a divorce struggled to navigate the process. That same study found roughly 80 percent of family law cases involved at least one party who was not represented. This is deeply concerning for those who lacked representation where the other party did have a lawyer because of the uneven playing field it created.

Some court systems faced with an overwhelming number of unrepresented divorce litigants have tested expedited divorce programs. Unfortunately, those aren’t available everywhere – and there is no guarantee the result will be fair.

There are some do-it-yourself manuals, but rules vary significantly from state-to-state and sometimes those documents don’t always reflect the latest information. Issues may arise where relevant case law – not simply statute – may factor, and that’s not something you’ll find in a manual.

What too often ends up happening is people end up essentially trapped in an unhappy or perhaps even abusive relationship. Even those who “successfully” divorce find that without the benefit of the attorney, they lose out long-term when it comes to resolutions for things like alimony, child support and asset distribution.

Ways to Reduce Costs in a New Jersey Divorce

East Brunswick divorce attorneys know the process is actually easier now than it used to be prior to the late 1960s when states first began to adopt no-fault divorces. In the two decades that followed, all states adopted no-fault laws. This meant there was no need for one partner to accuse the other of wrongdoing. It also substantially reduced the stigma of divorce. What it didn’t do was make the process any easier or a whole lot cheaper.

Your divorce lawyer wants to work with you. Making it happen could mean arranging financing, requesting for one spouse to pay the other’s attorney fees, taking out a personal loan or putting the expense on a credit card.

That said, there are ways a divorce lawyer can work with you to help keep your costs in check. These can include:

  • Opt for an uncontested divorce. If you and your spouse can agree on the big stuff – property division, child custody, debt distribution, etc. – it will limit your court appearances, your attorney’s time and the expense overall. It’s not going to work in every single case, and there may be some issues on which you truly cannot reach a consensus, but working together (if possible) can reduce costs.
  • Don’t make this about revenge. A drawn-out dissolution spent fighting over petty matters is going to be pricier.
  • Inquire about unbundled legal services. It really is advantageous for a divorce attorney see your case from beginning-to-end, but if that truly is not possible, you may be able to hire an attorney on a consulting basis.

Making careful decisions about which issues are the most important and where you need the greatest amount of legal help can go a long way in mitigating divorce costs.

Call Rozin|Golinder Law, LLC today for a free and confidential consultation.

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