Attorney Todd Dwire speaking with staff member in conference room

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Why hiring an attorney is usually better than a do-it-yourself divorce

Getting a divorce without the help of an attorney is possible, but may not be the best idea. Too much can go wrong without the advice of a lawyer.

In today’s digital age, all kinds of helpful information is at one’s fingertips. This may include how-to steps on obtaining a “do-it-yourself” divorce – meaning setting up the divorce decree, filing the paperwork and completing the process without the help of an attorney. The idea of ending a marriage this way may seem appealing. In bypassing hiring a lawyer or going to court, divorcing couples in Minnesota may assume they’re going to save money and time.

According to Forbes, the main types of divorce most readily available involve collaborative law, mediation, litigation and the do-it-yourself. Each of these options typically have advantages and disadvantages, but the DIY divorce may be the one that ends up causing the most setbacks. Most divorces come with financial and emotional complications, and attempting the split without legal representation may result in errors that can’t be changed.

Financial considerations

Most couples going through a divorce will have to consider dividing marital assets. Marital property is rarely as straightforward as the family home, vehicles and savings account. Assets accrued during a marriage, especially a long-term one, may be significant and complex. They often include the following:

• Retirement plans and pensions

• Vacation homes, rental property or other real estate

• Recreational vehicles, including boats, ATVs and campers

• Brokerage accounts and stock options

• Assets from a jointly-owned family business

It is also important to consider that when property is divided, gaining a particular asset may seem like a victory at first, but might not be advantageous in the long run. For example, one spouse might not want to leave the family home and could be willing to part with other assets in order to keep the house, but the property tax may later prove to be too costly. Another aspect that divorcing couples often don’t consider is debt. Joint debt accrued during the marriage will usually be divided equally, which can be crippling to a spouse who earns less money. These issues can be easy to overlook in a do-it-yourself divorce.

Child custody

Child custody, states the Huffington Post, is another divorce topic that can easily become contentious. It may be difficult for spouses to come to an agreement on their own about custody arrangements, child support and joint parenting plans. If an agreement can’t be reached, the court will often make custody decisions based on the interests of the child, the financial standing of each parent and their financial and home stability. It is usually best to avoid contention by settling a custody dispute outside the courtroom, which can often be achieved with the help of an attorney.

A divorce can quickly become contentious even when both spouses approach the matter with the best intentions. Drawing up the paperwork and filing without the help of an attorney may sound good in theory, but there is often too much potential to create even more problems. An experienced Minnesota family law attorney should be able to advise spouses on the options that are best for them.