You and your spouse have decided to end your marriage. You did some research on-line and found that the Connecticut judicial department website provides all the court forms and basic guidance. You’ve also heard that lawyers cost a lot. Why do you need a lawyer—you could do it yourself!
In theory, yes—you can represent yourself in your divorce. But should you? The following are my thoughts on whether or not you should retain a lawyer:
- Not much to split up. Self-representation may work well for you if you and your spouse are W-2 employees or unemployed, have few assets, and no minor children. Self-representation may also be appropriate for those with very short marriages and no children.
- Mediation. Self-representation is often done with mediation clients, but lawyers are usually involved as the mediator and as review counsel. Because mediated agreements are essentially written contracts, parties are well-advised to have them written and reviewed by a lawyer. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to change incorrect terms once the agreement is made an order of the court.
- Minor children. You and your spouse will have frequent contact with each other for many years if you have children. This is not always easy when money is tight or emotions run high. A lawyer can give invaluable guidance as to what the courts consider to be in the best interests of the children, and provide a layer of insulation between you and your spouse.
- Closely-held business. Valuation of a closely-held business and forensic accounting is extremely difficult to do by a self-represented party, especially in a litigated matter.
- Non-qualified retirement assets. Treatment of sophisticated assets, including valuation, is not something most parties should attempt without counsel. The consequences of “getting it wrong” are substantial.
- Litigation. Lawyers are trained in civil procedure and evidence— you’re not.
An ethical, experienced matrimonial lawyer will save you and your family money, frustration, and continued strife. Attorney Swiggart knows how to draft the important documents that will control your financial lives for years to come. Skill at litigation is derived through years of experience, and negotiation is an art that only some lawyers will master. Attorney Swiggart has over 30 years’ of experience as a family lawyer. Most of all, experienced matrimonial lawyers know what you are going through, and Carolyn Swiggart knows how to obtain the results that you want.