Getting a divorce really is the equivalent of getting major surgery, so we’re always surprised to find individuals continuing to try to file pro se. Sure, there are dozens of websites which can make it seem like nothing could be simpler than filing divorce paperwork, but divorce is about more than the paperwork.
As Philadelphia divorce lawyers we do a lot for our clients. We wanted to sort of give you a rundown of some of the major concerns we help our clients handle every single day.
#1) Helping you decide whether it’s worth it to keep the house.
Couples fight over the house, but it could be the worst asset you could possibly be awarded. Look past the emotions attached to the house. Consider the mortgage, taxes, insurance, homeowner’s association fees, and upkeep costs.
Remember, you maintained that house on the strength of two incomes. Chances are you and your spouse are both going to be living on less, either because you’re paying alimony or child support or because you and your spouse were relying on both incomes to keep the expenses afloat.
Sometimes it’s better to just sell the house, pay the bank, and split the difference. Of course, if the home is already paid off, or close to it, and keeping it is within your means then it can be smart to fight for it.
#2) Helping you understand the long-term financial consequences of your decisions.
Most divorcees only think about income, but income is only a portion of the financial picture.
There are long-term financial consequences to any divorce. It has tax implications, such as who gets to file the earned income credit each year? It has retirement implications. Will your spouse have access to money in your pension plan, 401K plan, or your Social Security?
What about debts? How deep in debt were the two of you? Who is going to pay those?
And once you’ve won your case, what steps are going to be put into place to make sure you get the payments or assets you’re supposed to walk away with?
#3) Helping you understand the difference between “fair” and “reasonable.”
Most clients come to us wanting to know they’re going to get a fair divorce settlement. Of course, their opinions on “fair” vary wildly. If your spouse cheated on you it may not feel fair that he or she may walk away with close to 50% of your marital assets, for example.
Unfortunately, courts don’t care about fair and they rarely care about fault.
When we talk about reasonable settlements we’re talking about settlements close to what the law would prompt or allow the judge to do if the matter went into full litigation. It’s not reasonable to expect to walk away with 90% of your spouse’s assets while saddling him or her with all the debts, for example, even if it feels like the fairest thing in the world. Unless the circumstances are extreme, no judge is going to do that.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t position yourself to get the most advantageous deal. But “advantageous” differs from party to party too, and depends a lot on the circumstances of everyone involved. We can also help you understand what advantageous might truly look like in your case.
#4) Helping you avoid settling too early…or too late.
Some pro se filers take truly atrocious deals just because they want the whole thing to be over with as quickly as possible. They come to regret them when they realize what a major impact their hastiness has had on their lives.
Others hold out until everyone’s angry and negotiations grind to a standstill. At that point, they end up in court, where a stranger takes a cursory look at their life and decides what the rest of it is going to look like.
Some divorce cases do need to be litigated, of course, and we will gladly tell you if you’ve got one of them. Others, however, are better served by reaching a solid agreement out of court. These are strategic decisions, and most pro se filers have no idea how to make them.
Filing pro se only looks cheap. It could be the worst financial and personal decision of your life.
We know a lot of pro se filers are concerned about the costs of hiring a divorce attorney.
However, unless you literally have no assets, no debts, and no children the costs of doing anything else might be way too high. You could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in future income and assets if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Obviously this amount is far smaller than what you will pay if you simply use a qualified divorce attorney.
Ready to start your divorce? Been served with a Summons and Complaint? Don’t go it alone. Contact Sadek and Cooper for your free evaluation today.