Do I Need a California Attorney for Divorce?
You realize that your marriage is no longer working and you want to file for divorce. The first thing you will ask yourself is “Do I need a California attorney for divorce?” That answer to that question is no, you are not required to have an attorney. Some couples manage to work through a divorce without the assistance of an attorney. The more important question to ask is “Should I get an attorney?”
California does not require an attorney to file for divorce. Most of the paperwork required for an initial divorce filing is fairly straightforward, especially if a couple has little or no assets. There are plenty of resources for someone filing for a divorce without a lawyer. Family courts have self-help centers that can review the forms to ensure they are filled out correctly. You can also hire a registered document assistant to assist with the initial filing.
If you and your spouse have no children and little or no assets, the answer to question “Do I need a California attorney for divorce?” is probably “no.” If there are few issues that need to be settled, the couple can probably work though the process themselves without an attorney.
Another option for working though a divorce without an attorney is to use a mediation service. A mediator (usually a retired judge, attorney, or another person knowledgeable in family law) will guide the couple though a settlement that is fair to both parties. The settlement prepared by the mediator is non-binding. If you reach a settlement using a mediator, you still may want to hire an attorney for the limited purpose of reviewing the settlement before signing.
There are instances when the answer to the question “Do I need a California attorney for divorce?” is technically no, but it would be in your best interest to hire an attorney. One situation where you will want an attorney is if you and your spouse have a lot of assets, particularly if there are both separate property, community property, and commingled assets. If there are issues of child custody and child support, you will want an attorney, even if you and your spouse are amicable. California courts consider a lot of factors when calculating child support, and a settlement that is not consistent with California law risks being rejected by the court. The same goes for spousal support. If your spouse is hiding assets or trying to cheat you, then you will definitely want a lawyer who will protect your interest. If your spouse hires a lawyer, it is a good idea to hire one too because an unrepresented party will be held to the same standards as an experienced family law attorney.
So, “Do I need a California attorney for divorce?” That depends. In certain scenarios, you can get through a divorce without one, but in many divorce cases, you would be crazy to go it alone.
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