I’ve heard this sentiment in one way or another from a number of mediation clients. Typically this is a couple who has already made many decisions regarding their assets, debts, and parenting schedule and is questioning the value they get from consulting an attorney who will charge a minimum of $200 per hour and a $2000 retainer to even look at the couple’s case. These individuals are intelligent, capable people who might deal with complex financial documents or contracts in their work; surely they can navigate the paperwork for a simple divorce, right?
“I have witnessed numerous judges in East Tennessee who will not grant a divorce to parties when the requisite language is not included in forms the parties downloaded online or drafted themselves,” reports attorney Shelley Breeding. “Without an attorney, it is extremely difficult to make sure the proper language is included, even when the parties agree to the terms of the divorce.”
Breeding also notes mistakes are often made by non-represented parties when attempting to calculate child support in compliance with the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines.
While there are couples who have managed to file their own divorce paperwork in Knoxville, clerks in some surrounding counties won’t let you through the courthouse door with do-it-yourself forms.
2. What you don’t know will hurt you. People have all kinds of misconceptions about family law. Some common myths include: parents with equal parenting time won’t have to pay child support, the parent who has the child the most will receive child support, if your spouse is ordered to pay a specific debt you are no longer responsible for that debt, a house that is appraised at $200K and has a $100k mortgage is a $100k asset, if your spouse is ordered to pay you some amount of money (alimony, equity from a house, child support) that you will actually receive that money. All of these can be false. Even the last one – that you will receive the money from your divorce settlement. People die, people file for bankruptcy, and your divorce settlement can disappear just like that, unless proper measures are taken to assure those debts get paid and promises fulfilled.
3. Attorneys are indispensable in a divorce. Even if you and your spouse agree on how to separate your assets, debts, and co-parenting you need to be sure your divorce agreement accomplishes what you envision. As Knoxville attorney Natalie LeVasseur explains, “You and your spouse are moving from point A to B, and its great that you both agree on what point B should look like, but now you need an experienced attorney to make sure your divorce agreement gets you there.”
It is extremely difficult to undue mistakes that get made. “But judge, I didn’t know what I was doing!” will not cut it when you find yourself with a bad divorce decree.
But, divorce does not have to be expensive. Mediation can be used to avoid an expensive divorce. Mediation reduces the number of attorney hours needed which means lower fees. There are plenty of attorneys in Knoxville with low retainer fees and are happiest when clients show up only needing a few hours of good advice and document prep. DivorceBetterKnoxville.com can refer you to a number of well qualified, trustworthy, and reasonably priced attorneys who are not going to take you or your family for a ride. And trust me – their expertise is worth every cent.