Do I Need an Attorney To Get Divorced? | By Fred Ruotolo
Posted 09/01/2022 in Divorce by Fred Ruotolo

Do I Need an Attorney To Get Divorced?

When you first began thinking about whether or not you should end your marriage, you were probably concerned about little else than what divorce means to you and your family. And it’s understandable if you didn’t spend much time thinking about the process of divorce itself. But once you’ve decided you will get divorced, the procedure—how exactly divorce works—becomes more significant. And you are now likely asking, “Do I need a lawyer?” 

Here are some suggestions on how to answer that question. 

Divorce is a Legal Proceeding 

Arizona law does not require you to have an attorney during your divorce. You can appear pro se; that means you decided not to hire an attorney and will represent yourself during your divorce.

However, most professionals strongly recommend against going it alone. 

Many people don’t realize that, in the eyes of the law, a divorce is a civil lawsuit, just as any other lawsuit between two parties. 

You have to appear in court during the divorce. And throughout the proceedings, you must follow all of the relevant laws and court procedures. For example, you’ll need to file papers with the court. You’ll have to serve (i.e., send) documents to your ex. And an improperly filed document or a missed deadline can severely hurt your case. 

And if you don’t have an attorney, a judge or court employee isn’t allowed to give you advice about how to litigate your divorce. 

By contrast, your attorney will explain the law. They will analyze and research the facts of your case, and then they’ll recommend the best courses of action. They will help you understand your rights and obligations during the divorce. They can examine the asset information provided by your ex to make sure that your ex has accurately disclosed all of their financial information. They’ll prepare the documents, complete the filings, and handle the correct methods of service. 

They can also help you avoid any legal difficulties. For example, they can advise you on the use of social media to prevent you from inadvertently posting anything that could be used as evidence against you in a hearing. 

Understanding Your Divorce

An attorney will help you deal with fundamental issues that you may not have even considered. For example, to be eligible for an Arizona divorce, you must have lived in the state long enough to meet the residency requirements. 

You’ll need to decide on the grounds for divorce. Most couples choose a “no-fault” divorce, but this isn’t required, and Arizona couples who have a covenant marriage cannot file for a no-fault divorce. 

You also should discuss if they are any reasons why an alternative such as a legal separation or an annulment might be more appropriate in your case.

And for many couples, financial problems are a catalyst for their divorce. If you’re also planning on filing for bankruptcy, a family law specialist can help you understand how divorce and bankruptcy proceedings impact each other. You can devise a strategy to provide the tools you need for the best possible future.

Divorce Has Long-Term Impact 

While it’s important to get the process right, keep in mind the importance of your divorce—which can impact every aspect of your future. 

If you have children, you must resolve all custody issues during your divorce. You can’t just work those issues out later, as they arise. Instead, you must prepare a “parenting plan” that allocates how you and your ex will share the responsibilities for raising your children. A judge must review and approve your plan, and you cannot change it without the judge’s approval. So it’s much better to have a thorough parenting plan tailored to meet your family’s needs than it is to rely on some boilerplate version that you found on a website.   

You’ll also have to work out all the financial issues, including spousal support and the division of your assets and debts. Arizona law states that you can retain your separate property, i.e., what you brought into the marriage and kept as your own; but you must split community property, the property you acquired as a couple during the marriage. That’s clear-cut in theory, but it can become complicated in practice—especially if you have long-term investments such as a small business or a complicated stock portfolio. 

Attorneys Can Do More than Litigate in Court 

People are sometimes reticent to hire a divorce attorney because they think that divorce lawyers are only necessary in highly contentious cases. But most of the time, attorneys help clients come to a satisfactory agreement and avoid an in-court battle. 

You can use an attorney to help you prepare for mediation, the process where you negotiate out-of-court to settle most, if not all, of the issues. (In Arizona, courts will order most couples with children to attend mediation to address custody concerns.)

And if you and your ex are planning on an amicable split, you can get a collaborative divorce. In a collaborative divorce, you and your ex can share a single attorney to represent you. That way, you keep the costs—and hostility—down, while you know that your divorce settlement will meet all of the necessary legal requirements.

If you’re getting a divorce, the best way to decide if you need an attorney is to talk to an actual lawyer. Contact our office (by phone at: 602-548-3400). We will be happy to schedule an initial complimentary consultation with one of our family law attorneys to discuss exactly what we can offer during your case.

Fred Ruotolo is a divorce and family law attorney Scottsdale, Arizona. Mr. Ruotolo is a partner with Stewart Law Group. The firm has helped many clients navigate the legal complexities of divorce, child custody, child support, spousal support, property division and child relocation disputes.



Posted By

Fred Ruotolo

Contact Lawyer
View Phone Number
View Profile


View On Larger Map