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Do I Have to Have a Lawyer for My Divorce or Custody Case?

Denver is a big town full of big questions. One question we sometimes get from people who call to inquire about our family law services is, “do I have to have a lawyer to get divorced?” The answer is NO. You are not required to have an attorney to file a divorce or custody case. People can go through the process on their own, and they do.

As the economic fortunes of the nation and the state have turned, we have seen an increasing number of cases in which people try to do their divorce and custody cases on their own. As time goes by, we also have seen an increase in instances in which they do the initial case on their own, but end up needing an attorney later on, whether 6 months, or a year, or two years down road. Why? Because things were not done correctly in the first place. I’s were not dotted, and T’s were not crossed. The finer points of arriving at a fair agreement were not known to the parties at the time. Do you have to have a lawyer? NO. Can paying an attorney, even just to review your agreement before you sign on the dotted line pay off down the road? YES. There are two phrases or cliches that come to mind, “penny wise and pound foolish” or “an ounce of prevention is worth more that a pound of cure.”

In this day and age of the internet, people can simply go on-line and find the divorce forms they need and instructions on how to fill them out. They can print off check-the-box separation agreement and parenting plan forms, for free. They can sit together, or alone, and fill those forms out. Though the forms are somewhat comprehensive, they are standard or stock forms. They do not provide all of the details that experienced family law attorneys might put into a final divorce or custody agreement. They do not explain the law or how the court system often works. They do not divulge the finer points. It is understandable that people would rather try to do their divorce, custody, or child support cases without having to pay a lawyer. Paying a lawyer is like paying a doctor. No one wants to do it until they have to.

The divorce lawyers at Plog & Stein, P.C. have seen multiple cases in which detail is left out by those trying to save some money on their divorces. We have seen cases in which the parties agree that one will keep the house, but have written in no language as to how the other will get his or her name off of the financing, or his or her equity out of it. We have seen people entitled to alimony waive it without even understanding their rights, or that a waiver is final. We have seen people pay too much child support, or receive too little, because they didn’t know the law. We have seen people hand over the right to claim the children for taxes because they live mostly with the other party. We have seen people hand over parental responsibility (decision making) or residential custody without thinking about the ramifications of doing so and how difficult it is to change those items later on. I could go on and on, but I will stop. We have also seen instances in which these omissions, mistakes, or agreements made without truly understanding the law have led to thousands of dollars in legal fees being incurred down the road. Keep in mind, not all legal mistakes can be corrected.

Our attorneys, and other experienced family law attorneys, know the finer points of domestic relations law, down to little details the client may not even be thinking about. That’s our job. That’s what we attorneys do. Even if you know you don’t want to fully hire an attorney, or cannot afford one, it can still be a benefit to sit down with an attorney to go over your case, your ideas, and your agreements before signing on the bottom line. You may have to pay for an hour or two of consultation time. Considering that you could ending up paying much more in fees down the road, that is money likely well spent. We strive to leave each person armed with as much knowledge as possible, whether over an issue so small as how to divide medical expenses (it’s not 50/50) to larger issues, such as giving the other person final say as to making major decisions for the children.

Nothing matters more than your future and that of your children, both emotionally and financially. Everyone wants to save money. I resist my wife every time she tells me I have to buy organic fruit. Inside, I know she is looking out for the long term health of my family and is willing to spend a little more now to prevent major problems down the road. You can do the same by taking the time to discuss all aspects of your divorce, custody, child support, or other family law case with an attorney. Would you give your self a root canal or put in your kid’s braces? NO. If you want to take the shot on your own, know that you can. If you want to see things done correctly the first time, think about contacting a Denver family law lawyer. We can help get it done right the first time.

Author Photo

Stephen Plog, co-founder of Plog & Stein, P.C. in 1999, is a dedicated family law attorney with almost two decades of expertise in Denver. Focused exclusively on family law since 2001, he excels in both intricate legal writing and courtroom litigation, having navigated cases in all Denver metropolitan area District Courts. Steve’s comprehensive background, including a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a law degree from Quinnipiac University School of Law, underscores his commitment to providing insightful and personalized representation in family law matters.