While all divorce agreements must be approved by the Family Court to be enforced, not all divorces end up in litigation. In fact, many divorces in New Hampshire do not even have lawyers. In New Hampshire, a “no-contest” or “uncontested” divorce informally refers to a divorce by agreement. In these cases, the Court will approve the parties’ requests (property division, support orders, parenting plan, etc.) without engaging in litigation. Plainly, an uncontested divorce occurs when the parties agree upon the terms of their permanent separation.
As mentioned, many divorce decrees are “do-it-yourself” divorces. In these situations, parties that agree that their marriage reached its natural end. Therefore, the parties put together an agreement from the Family Court’s online forms and checklists, and submit the agreement to be approved by the judge. While this is the most cost-effective solution in the short-term, it may cost significantly more money in the long-term.
Agreements are great when the parties have the same understanding. However, what happens several years down the line when the parties aren’t agreeing? As neither party was a lawyer, you do not know what you do not know when preparing an agreement. As an example, some common pitfalls that go unresolved in agreed upon divorces without attorneys can be: how long does a party have to refinance the marital home, how will a credit card balance be paid off, how long does a parent have on a particular holiday? There are many, many pitfalls that an unrepresented divorcee could unwittingly agree upon to their future detriment.
Hiring a lawyer doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to litigate. Most of our divorce clients come to us at the beginning stage of their future separation. In these instances, the potential clients are getting information and exploring their options. At Parnell, Michels & McKay, we advise the client to consider settlement if they haven’t done so already. A main component of that conversation will consider around whether you have an amicable relationship with your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Alternatively, if you don’t have an amicable relationship, we ask whether both parties motivated to avoid going to Court. If either of those answers are positive, we suggest the parties prepare settlement proposals to see if your ex-spouse will agree, and if they don’t where they do not agree, so we can attempt to find a solution. By preparing an agreement with an attorney, you can receive advice about what to be concerned about in your divorce, and craft language in your decree to cure those concerns.
In short, it’s worth hiring a lawyer even if you agree on the terms of your divorce because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It may be that the divorce documents take a bit longer to prepare, and you spend some money in legal fees to do so. However, such initial cost is a form of investment that will prevent spending more money and time later when you may be more acrimonious with your ex-spouse. If you have questions about divorce settlement, contact one of the experienced attorneys at Parnell, Michels & McKay, PLLC. We can provide you with realistic information and advice to help you draft and determine the best language to help settle your case.
We have 2 locations for your convenience: 25 Nashua Rd., Suite C5, Londonderry, NH 03053. Phone number is (603) 434-6331. Our 2nd location is at 137 Main St. P.O box 669, N. Woodstock, NH 03262. Phone number is (603) 745-8600.