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Do I Need an Attorney to Get a Divorce or Can I DIY It?

Here’s what you need to consider when deciding if you should file for divorce on your own.

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After you make the heartbreaking decision to dissolve your marriage, you likely want to move forward as quickly and easily as possible. While it may seem like filing for a divorce without an attorney is the best path forward (to save money), it won’t be quick and it won’t be easy.

While the laws in New Jersey don’t state that you must have a lawyer to file for divorce, you’ll find there are many reasons you really do need the help of a family law attorney. You’ll learn that to navigate the many forms, timelines and procedures that make a divorce final and legal, you must devote the equivalent of a full-time job in hours and have great organizational skills. 

Even the New Jersey Courts agree saying, “The decision to file for divorce is a difficult one and having to work through the legal process on your own makes it even more difficult. For this reason, the court recommends that people considering filing for divorce, or those who are responding to a divorce complaint, seek legal counsel if they are able to do so.” 

Here’s what you need to consider when deciding if you should file for divorce without an attorney.

1. Your First Step to Initiating Divorce

The first step to the process of filing for divorce starts with the “Complaint for Divorce/Dissolution” form. There are four types of divorce complaints and you must choose the right one for your situation. These are contested (fault divorces), uncontested (no-fault divorces), mediation, and arbitration. Let’s focus on the first two:

Fault: This is when one spouse holds the other responsible for the end of the marriage (because of adultery, abuse or similar reasons). A divorce attorney can determine which (if any) grounds fit your situation and can be instrumental in proving the claims you make on a fault divorce.

No-Fault: A no-fault divorce is when neither partner blames the other for the end of the marriage. In these situations, the parties must either agree on everything from the dispersal of the marital property to the custody arrangements, or else they must go to court to determine this. In either case, an attorney can help ensure that you get a fair settlement in the case.

2. Next Step: Forms, Forms and More Forms

Once the appropriate type of divorce to file is determined, then comes the paperwork. Anyone who’s not trained in family law will find this complex and difficult. Experienced family law attorneys and their teams are trained to handle the number of forms that need to be completed, the timeline they need to be completed in, the exact locations they all need to be submitted, and with the proper fees and notarization that needs to happen for these standard forms:

3. Determining Where the Breakdown Began and Filing in the Right Place

You, as the plaintiff, are required to file for divorce in the county where the actions that led to this decision happened. This can be murky at times depending on circumstances such as desertion or when separation happened but may not be agreed upon. An experienced family lawyer can help navigate this and determine the appropriate avenue to file for divorce.

4. Tracking and Responding in a Timely Manner

Servicing the Divorce Complaint as well as monitoring for the 35-day response time can be nerve-racking, as well as complicated. You must keep up with copies and fees, as well track when the response comes in, and then act on whatever that response may be. An attorney and their team has the time and resources to handle this paperwork and the responses needed.

5. Are You Ready to Discuss the Distribution of Assets with Your Soon-To-Be-Ex?

Family law attorneys are experienced with handling the distribution of marital assets. Even though New Jersey is an “equitable distribution” state, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. The property is meant to be split fairly under New Jersey law. That doesn’t mean that it’s an exact 50/50 split with each spouse taking half of the property.

Instead, the distribution will be based on several factors including:

It Can Seem Simple in the Beginning….

Oftentimes, we see clients who’ve started the process of filing on their own. Then, they find out very quickly that the demands and complexity of the laws in New Jersey for divorce are demanding, stressful and anything but straightforward.

The only way that you can be sure to get the best end-result in a divorce is by hiring an experienced attorney who ensures your rights are protected under New Jersey law. If you try filing for a divorce without an attorney and opt to handle this on your own by using the internet or anecdotes from others, you won’t get a realistic picture of what to expect.

Contact the Knowledgeable Family Law Attorneys at Smedley Law Group in Runnemede, NJ Today

Filing for a divorce without an attorney may seem tempting, but it’s important to remember that you could be dealing with another complicated matter related to the divorce later on down the road, such as child custody, child support, or division of assets. In these complex legal matters, it is always advisable to speak with a qualified attorney to find out how they can protect you and your family’s best interests. The New Jersey family law attorneys at Smedley Law Group represent clients throughout the state, including West Deptford, Woodbury Heights, Cherry Hill, and Westville. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we’ll fight hard to protect your rights. Call us at (856) 251-0800 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 750 Cooper Street, Woodbury, NJ 08096.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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