While it is certainly possible to proceed in a dissolution of marriage (or legal separation) without legal representation, very seldom is doing so advisable, even in cases where you may think the case will be uncontested or amicable. If you elect to proceed with your divorce without legal representation, you can find the necessary court forms online through the Colorado Supreme Court.
Hiring an attorney to represent you in your divorce proceedings is important for a number of reasons, including to:
- Protect your interests: Your attorney is your advocate, representing your interests, and will ensure that your rights are protected. They understand Colorado law and can advise you of certain consequences based on different circumstances. In the event an agreement is reached, your attorney can ensure that the agreement is drafted in such a way that protects your interests and contemplates for “what ifs.” For example, it is common for one party to receive the “marital residence,” and, as a result, that party must remove the other party from the mortgage. What if they don’t do this in a timely manner? What if they try, but cannot qualify for a refinance of the mortgage? What happens then? Your attorney can help contemplate and negotiate for these circumstances.
- Provide guidance: Not only will your attorney be your advocate, but they can guide you through the legal process, explaining at each stage what the next steps are (and any potential variances) and the timeline. Your attorney can also help you in not making any emotional or rash decisions when going through an incredibly stressful time like a divorce. A good divorce attorney will be able to guide you and tell you which actions are most appropriate based on your specific case.
- Help avoid errors: Your attorney will ensure that all necessary court documents are filed, and procedural deadlines are met. When procedural errors occur, the court can take certain actions—anywhere from holding the violating party in contempt to closing the divorce action completely (if neither party is complying with deadlines). Your attorney can also help avoid any substantive errors, whether in the drafting of settlement agreements (Separation Agreement and Parenting Plan), as part of the financial disclosure requirement, or otherwise. An attorney will make sure that not only are all of the necessary items addressed in any agreements, but also pay attention to the finer details that you or your spouse may overlook.
- Represent you in court: If you and your spouse do not reach an agreement on all issues, you will eventually proceed to a Permanent Orders Hearing. Having an attorney represent you at the Permanent Orders Hearing is incredibly beneficial, as the attorney understands the court processes as well as the applicable Rules of Evidence that govern the type of evidence that can and cannot be admitted and considered.
- Protect against your spouse’s legal representation: If your spouse hires an attorney, even if you believe everything is amicable, you will be at a disadvantage. The attorney your spouse hires will only be looking out for your spouse’s interests, not yours. That attorney can also not ethically give you any legal advice whatsoever. Hiring an attorney to represent you can ensure that you are not being taken advantage of during the course of any negotiations.
If you decide to proceed with your divorce by representing yourself, you should, at the very least, consult with a divorce attorney so you can understand your legal rights and how Colorado law operates. In the event that you reach an agreement without legal representation, you should also have a divorce attorney review that agreement before you sign it.
At Solutions Based Family Law, our attorneys are experienced in all areas of Colorado divorce law and strive to give their clients the best advice and guidance based on each client’s unique set of circumstances. To schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys, contact us online or call us at (720) 463-2232.