The decision to avoid hiring a West Palm Beach divorce law firm based on the belief that you will save money by working out a settlement on your own may be one of the most expensive decisions you will ever make.
When parties attempt to negotiate and draft a marital settlement agreement in Florida without legal advice and guidance, the potential roadblocks and pitfalls are almost insurmountable. Imagine trying to quarterback a professional football team when you have never played football in your life and do not even know the rules of the game. While this may sound like an outrageous and impossible proposition, it is fairly comparable to handling your own divorce settlement with absolutely no legal assistance.
Examples of issues that make handling your own divorce settlement in most cases a dicey proposition include, but are not limited to the following:
• Distribution of large, complex marital estates
• Property classification issues
• Division of pensions and retirement accounts
• Custody and visitation of minor children
• Child support issues
• Alimony or spousal support
• Issues arising from owning a business
• Issues dealing with marital waste and intentional misuse of marital funds
Admittedly, there are specific cases where it may be appropriate to proceed without an attorney but those situations are fairly limited. To put it another way, self-negotiated marital settlement agreements typically are appropriate in marriages of extremely brief duration where you have no children and own virtually no property or debts together. If your situation does not fall within these narrow parameters, there are a number of benefits that can be derived from seeking legal advice when attempting to work out a marital settlement agreement. The benefits to retaining counsel are the following:
Informed Negotiations: The law has specific standards for deciding certain issues that can make these issues easier to resolve because a finite range of options exists. If you have legal advice on how a court will view an issue and the likely resolution, your negotiations are informed by realistic expectations. When parties negotiate in a vacuum with no understanding of their legal rights and probable outcome on issues in front of a judge, this makes it easier to get sidetracked on irrelevant issues or proposals that are not enforceable.
Protection from Overreaching: Many relationships involve spouses that are in different positions in terms of their earning capacity, separate assets owned prior to marriage, financial sophistication and other factors. This can create a situation where the bargaining power is unequal so that the outcome is more the result of one spouse bullying another rather than a genuine give and take through negotiation and compromise.
Compliance with Legal and Procedural Requirements: Many times couples that try to prepare their own divorce judgment based on a marital settlement agreement face the aggravation of having their paperwork repeatedly rejected by the court because it does not comply with requirements for form or substance. Spouses that do not have access to legal advice when negotiating a marital settlement agreement may also make mistakes like failing to accurately prepare property disclosure or trying to include a waiver of child support which is not enforceable.
Poor Drafting Equals Unintended Consequences: The terminology and precise language used in a marital settlement agreement can have a drastic impact on the outcome of a divorce. If you do not have an attorney prepare the agreement or review the language you may find that the agreement does not result in the outcome you anticipated. The spouse impacted by the imprecise language may find that when an issue arises their former spouse is not particularly motivated to fix the problem. This type of mistake can significantly compromise the fairness of the divorce settlement.
These are just a few of the ways that seeking out legal advice and counsel from an attorney at the Law Offices of James S. Cunha, P.A. Our experienced West Palm Beach divorce law firm can protect you from critical errors and save you money. While tough economic times makes the proposition of saving money attractive, sometimes a little invested early in the process will pay off big dividends later. If you are considering retaining an experienced West Palm Beach divorce attorney and have questions about the divorce process, our law firm can assist you. Please call us at 561-429-3924 to schedule a consultation.