Do I really need a lawyer? I often get asked this question by my clients in divorce mediation at Westfield Mediation, LLC. The short answer is that legally you do not need a lawyer to get divorced. You can fill out the paperwork yourself and be considered pro se and represent yourself in court.
The long answer is that it is best practice to have a divorce mediator and a review attorney to get divorced. This is the best of both worlds. A divorce mediator is a neutral third party, meaning she does not take anyone’s side in a matter. A mediator can facilitate the process so you and your spouse are making all the decisions about your divorce agreement. A review attorney is a divorce attorney acting as a resource you can access as needed, rather than your sole support, during the divorce process. A review attorney is your legal advocate and has your best interests in mind. During the mediation process, sometimes issues of law come up and the mediator will refer you to your lawyer. Your lawyer can inform you of the law and advise you how to proceed keeping your best interests in mind. Then you are able to return to mediation with more knowledge about what you can/can't/ should/shouldn't do and can move forward in making an informed decision.
You don’t want to look back on the decisions you made during your divorce with any regret. The best way to assure that this does not happen is to use a mediator and keep control over the process, along with the support of the review attorney you can tap into when you need him/her. Also, the review attorney can complete all the paperwork for you and accompany you to court. This is very reassuring to many clients.
The cost of both parties using one divorce mediator and two separate review attorneys is still significantly less expensive than both parties retaining two divorce attorneys. So you can have the best of both worlds for less money.