Risks of Divorcing in Michigan Without an Attorney

With the availability of the Internet and its wealth of information on every topic, people are shying away from hiring professionals for various services they feel they can learn to do themselves. This includes certain legal services like divorce.

To the answer, “Why should I hire an attorney for my Michigan divorce?” There is one good answer, itself a question: “What do you have to lose?”

That’s not a flippant answer. If you have bank accounts, cars, personal property, a home you’ve shared with your spouse, retirement funds, or relationships with your children–those are things you have to lose in a divorce. The reason you hire an attorney is to protect your interests.

It may seem like a wise idea to let a spouse spend the money to hire a lawyer, who will draw up the necessary papers, appear in court, and take care of the details. Sometimes this strategy works out just fine. What you must realize, however, is that an attorney hired by your spouse works for your spouse, no matter what anyone tells you to the contrary. When you rely on your spouse’s attorney to take care of the details of your divorce, you are betting the house (sometimes literally) on whether you can trust your spouse to treat you fairly.

If you have kids, and your spouse is the only one with an attorney, the custodial arrangements and parenting time schedule will largely be in that attorney’s hands. And while child support in Michigan is determined by formula, that complicated formula is only as accurate as the information that’s fed into it. Without your own attorney to review the data, your spouse may overestimate your income or underestimate their own, even if unintentionally.

This is not to suggest that most spouses or most attorneys are unscrupulous. But divorces are complicated. The language used in filings and court documents may be difficult to interpret for those not used to dealing with them. And these documents could affect you profoundly for the rest of your life. Words that appear reasonable or even boilerplate may have effects you can’t anticipate–but once you sign off on them, you are bound by them. Under some circumstances, such as what’s known as a default, you need not have signed anything to be bound by a judgment of divorce.

Quite simply, it makes financial sense to have an experienced professional advocating for your interests, and reviewing every piece of paper in your divorce case before you put your signature on it. Any money you save in legal fees by not hiring an attorney before your divorce could easily be lost by being saddled with a property settlement that heavily favors your spouse–or in legal fees paid after your divorce to try to fix problems. It is much easier and more cost-effective to negotiate a good divorce judgment than to try to change a bad one. 

If you are contemplating divorce in Michigan, or have been served with a divorce complaint, contact our office for a free consultation and to review your options. Give us a call at (248) 454-1860.