You wouldn't watch a YouTube video to learn how to perform your own appendectomy, nor would you re-wire your home reading instructions from your phone. You certainly don’t want to draft your own marital separation agreement for your divorce using on-line research or internet forms.
There is a reason why doctors, electricians and attorneys alike have specialized training, and know how to successfully guide you to a safe result. Hiring a divorce attorney is an unnecessary expense, it may seem, when there is so much good information available on-line for free. But investing now in the correct legal advice will avoid very costly mistakes.
Not long ago, Ciesla Beeler Founding Partner, Kathryn Ciesla was at a conference speaking with various judges when one judge remarked that more than ever, couples are coming to court with the same on-line divorce forms "missing" certain key provisions designed to address all of the parties' assets and/or children's issues. The judge said that the difficultly for her and other judges is that while the documents they are presented with meet the minimal requirements, but several key provisions are missing and/or issues are not addressed, leading to future. Because judges can't provide litigants with legal advice, they are powerless to clue the litigants in on the fact there there may be problems with what they are presenting to the courts for entry.
At Ciesla Beeler, we have seen too many divorce decrees where the parties, or just one party, has not had an attorney represent them through divorce proceedings. The unrepresented party thought at the time that the division of assets was fair and reasonable. Waiving interest in a pension seemed like the right thing to do, or they didn’t stop to think about what would happen if one party just stopped paying a mortgage which is still under both of their names.
Regretfully, there are some mistakes unrepresented parties have made that cannot be undone. Once there has been an agreement and a Judgment has been entered, certain items that have been waived or agreed to cannot be changed. That is just one of the many reasons why you need an attorney to represent you in litigation, or guide you in mediation, before you sign off on a divorce.
Here are some other things to consider and Google falls short on:
· Changes in the law. Attorneys in Illinois have to continue to earn hours of training to keep their license to practice in good stead. This means attending seminars, or even lecturing at seminars, on new topics in the law. There have been some radical changes in maintenance, child support and parental decision-making. Having a knowledgeable family law attorney represent you will help avoid what could be major pitfalls in your agreements because you don’t know the law.
· Equitable does not mean equal. Spouses often take this approach, which seems so right, but often is not so. If one spouse stayed at home for years with the children and now earns less, or if one spouse is in an industry which funds a retirement account and provides a company car, is dividing everything in half really equitable? Family law attorneys can help you review this information from a legal equitable perspective.
· And then what? Like the example above with a mortgage in both parties’ names, a family law attorney has seen those bad-to-worse situations. There are the enumerable scenarios where everything seems OK on the surface, but the parties never thought about all the possible alternatives which could cause problems later. A skilled family law attorney with years of experience has either had to address those problems, or has drafted agreements to successfully keep those problems in abeyance.
Don’t regret your divorce decisions later; contact Ciesla Beeler for a consultation.