3 dangers of navigating the divorce process without an attorney

Divorcing spouses who represent themselves may be at risk for hurting their cases, misunderstanding their rights and suffering needless financial losses.

Each year, thousands of couples in Memphis and other parts of Tennessee make the decision to end their marriages. According to WNCN, Tennessee Department of Health data shows that about 50 percent of couples in the state eventually divorce. Although hiring an attorney is a first step for many people in this position, others may consider navigating this process without one. Unfortunately, this can be a harmful choice for most people in light of the following potential outcomes.

1. Overlooking legal rights

Spouses who get divorced without legal counsel may not fully understand their rights, and they may accept unreasonable settlements as a result. For example, Tennessee law holds that most property acquired during marriage, save gifts and inheritances, must be divided equitably between both spouses. This division accounts for many factors, such as each spouse's health, financial standing and contributions to the marriage. Under these laws, some spouses may receive a more favorable division of marital property than they would if they divided assets on their own.

A poor understanding of the state's alimony, child custody and visitation laws may similarly prevent divorcing spouses from securing the most favorable possible settlement. This is a concern because certain aspects of a divorce settlement, including property division, cannot be changed later. This makes it crucial for spouses to understand their rights and the relevant state laws from the beginning of the divorce process.

2. Losing out financially

Many people may think that forgoing legal assistance is an effective way to reduce divorce-related costs. However, self-representing spouses may make a number of avoidable mistakes that lead to an unfavorable settlement and unnecessary financial losses. Even if spouses understand their legal rights, they may still be at risk for a number of common missteps. According to The Wall Street Journal, these include:

  • Keeping property with burdensome hidden costs, such as the family home
  • Overlooking the tax implications of various aspects of a divorce settlement
  • Forgetting or incorrectly valuating assets that qualify as marital property

An attorney who understands these financial issues may be able to help a spouse evaluate the merits of different potential settlements and make a final decision based on logic, rather than emotions.

3. Making avoidable missteps

Spouses who get divorced without legal counsel may also be at risk for making other common mistakes during the process. As an example, according to Forbes, many spouses have learned too late that sensitive information shared through social media can adversely affect a person's likelihood of receiving alimony, a favorable division of property or child custody and visitation. An attorney may be able to help a spouse understand and avoid a number of these common pitfalls.

Getting a second opinion

Before committing to completing the divorce process alone, spouses in Tennessee should consider meeting with an attorney to discuss the specifics of their situation. An attorney may be able to identify potential complications that may arise during a divorce that a spouse might not be aware of. An attorney may also be able to help a person understand the potential drawbacks of self-representation and evaluate whether it is a suitable option.