People in amicable divorce situations often make decisions to save money and prepare divorce, support and custody documents without the benefit of legal counsel. These parties, however, can be “penny wise and pound foolish.”
There is an old adage that “an attorney who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Attorney involvement does not always prevent an amicable resolution of the parties’ divorce. In fact, representation by competent matrimonial counsel may even sustain the amicable relationship between the parties.
In an attempt to save money, individuals may download a boilerplate marital settlement agreement from the internet, sign it and move on with their lives. The downloaded document, however, may or may not contain the appropriate language for the state in which they reside. It also may or may not contain language which protects the individual parties. Further, the downloaded document may not properly address the specific needs of the parties’ children.
It is only when the parties have a disagreement a few days, weeks or months after the contract has been executed that the deficiencies in the contract are realized. Suddenly the parties are scrambling for the advice of attorneys. A considerable amount of money that was once “saved” is now being spent. The once amicable couple is now fighting and the ideal family situation the parties thought they would be able to achieve is gone.
There is another old adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The end result could have been very different from the scenario above. Attorneys can draft documents that are better suited to address the parties’ concerns and provide necessary protections for both parties. The divorcing couple can reach an agreement that is properly drafted and will likely be upheld in the event of a future dispute. Attorneys will provide advice and perhaps suggest alternatives that will benefit the family. The parties will benefit from the attorneys’ experiences in multiple types of divorce, support and custody situation. This helps to anticipate and address issues that may arise between the parties in the future. Ultimately, however, the terms of an agreement can and will be determined by the parties.
It is clear that money expended at the beginning of a divorce would be better than spending too much money fighting at the end. To quote another wise man, my father: “Hire a professional; you would not perform your own appendectomy, would you?”