You know what a lawyer does for a client: he or she defends the client's rights and interests in court against an antagonistic opponent. Without a lawyer, the client can be taken advantage of and leave the courtroom in financial ruin. So in an amicable divorce, where both parties agree to the terms of their divorce and there is no conflict, there is no need for either party to retain a lawyer, right? Wrong. Lawyers are not legal bodyguards. They are advisers and advocates who guide their clients through legal processes. Break yourself from the mindset that a lawyer is only necessary if you are facing a conflict. A lawyer is necessary if you are undergoing any legal process, such as a divorce, designating a party to have power of attorney for you in the event you are incapacitated or adopting a child.
Although you certainly can work through your divorce on your own, doing so can leave you vulnerable to many pitfalls and end up costing you more money in the long run than you would have spent by hiring a competent lawyer. Today, there are thousands of websites that provide walkthroughs for anything an individual might face, from drafting a prenuptial agreement to rewiring a home. Do not allow yourself to gain a false sense of confidence by reading a few pages about divorce on the internet. These pages should be used as guidelines and springboards for conversations with lawyers, not comprehensive guides to the divorce process.
Unlike a self-help guide on the internet, a lawyer can make determinations and predictions based on your unique circumstances. He or she can listen to your specific goals for your divorce and work with you and the court in an attempt to reach a settlement that meets these goals. For example, if you have an emotional attachment to your marital home, your lawyer can help you and your spouse work out a property division agreement that allows you to keep the home while providing your spouse with an equitable share of your marital property.
Consider hiring a lawyer who has experience working with clients facing the specific circumstances you are facing. For example, if you are a father, consider working with a lawyer who has experience helping fathers reach fair parenting time agreements. If you are in a same sex relationship, consider working with a divorce lawyer who has experience in navigating the unique challenges that same sex couples may face during a divorce.
Your lawyer can help you see options that you might not have realized you have. He or she can also help you seek settlement terms that you might not have thought were possible, such as receiving spousal maintenance for a limited amount of time, rather than taking an all-or-nothing approach to it.
Working with a lawyer is also in your children's best interest. A divorce lawyer is familiar with Illinois' laws regarding the allocation of parenting time and parental responsibilities. He or she can determine if a child custody evaluator should be brought in to determine an appropriate parenting time agreement or if your child would benefit from a few sessions with a child psychologist to determine an appropriate arrangement. If the court develops an arrangement that you feel is unfair or inappropriate for your child, your lawyer can help you develop a body of proof to submit to the court to alter the arrangement.
Your child also needs to be supported financially. Your lawyer can work with you and the court to determine a child support amount that provides your child with the financial support he or she needs without causing an undue financial burden on your former spouse. Later, if this amount is no longer sufficient for your child's needs or if it is more than he or she needs, your lawyer can file a petition with the court to modify your child support amount.
If you are considering filing for divorce or if you have already done so, it is in your best interest to work with an experienced divorce lawyer. If you have more questions about how a lawyer can help you or if you are ready to start working with a lawyer who can represent and guide you through each step of the divorce process, contact our team of experienced DuPage County family and divorce lawyers at Sullivan Taylor, Gumina & Palmer, P.C.