If you went through a contested divorce years ago, you probably learned a lot about the divorce laws that were in effect at that time. Be very cautious about proceeding without legal representation. As I have said before, you can amputate your own limb but it usually works about better if you have a surgeon do it. You should also be careful that you are not thinking too much with your heart and not enough with your head.
One thing to keep in mind is that every divorce is different. This marriage may be very different from your previous marriage. The finances may be more complicated, it could be a longer-term marriage, or there might be children involved. Additionally, if you had assets when you came into this marriage (e.g. from the previous divorce), you will surely want to make sure that they are protected during this divorce. Even your age and health condition may affect the outcome of your divorce and are issues that a skilled family law attorney can discuss with you.
Another point to consider, is that, as I acknowledged, you may have learned a lot about the laws in effect at the time of your last divorce. The problem is that laws change all the time. That is especially true in the are of family law. Every year there may be new statutes passed by the legislature, or new rules of procedure or even new decisions by the appellate courts. All of these things can directly affect your case. You may also be appearing before a different judge than in your last case. One with much, much different attitudes about your particular factual situation. A trained lawyer should be able to discuss all of these issues with you and explain how your particular situation fits in the current status of the law.
In some cases, you may be able to keep the involvement of an attorney to a minimum. It may be limited to simply reviewing a proposed agreement and advising you about its ramifications. On the other hand, the lawyer may realize that you are being taken advantage of and potentially signing away thousands of dollars or other rights that you did not even know you had. It is up to you whether you will choose to be penny wise and pound foolish. As a final point, I will remind you, do not ever operate under the delusion that you and your spouse can "share" an attorney.
Photo courtesy of Rob Walker
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