Ask A Lawyer: Do I Need An Attorney For An Amicable Divorce?


My wife and I are getting a divorce. She has her first appointment with her lawyer in a few days. She insists that she wants joint custody and to split the bills 50/50.  She said that she intends to tell her lawyer this as well. It’s an amicable divorce and I have no reason to doubt her. That arrangement seems like the best I could hope for.

Should I still get a lawyer? How can I make sure my rights are enforced without making waves?




The devil is in the details, and, as Don Henley laments in "The End of The Innocence" the lawyers clean up all details.  Unfortunately, in almost all cases, custody and child support agreements can not be left to a handshake and reliance upon good faith, nor should they be.  The issues that led to the dissolution of marriage – ranging from passive incompatibility to active misconduct – will overshadow and control the divorce and future custody issues.     Absent specific provisions on the issues that are important to you or which can come back to bite you, you will be at the mercy of your soon-to-be-ex to assert the intentions of the agreement or the Court will apply its own interpretation possibly subjecting you to unintended consequences.

An experienced domestic litigation attorney, such as those with Cordell & Cordell, can identify the issues, possible consequences, and advise you as to the alternatives and strategies.  Examples include custody schedules that leave gaps in responsibility for the child, holiday schedules that do not meet your family traditions, debt divisions that do not address future liability to third parties for the debts, or a division of child exemptions that is inappropriate in light of the tax status and support obligations of both parties.  You can then prioritize the issues you wish to pursue. 

If your wife utilizes an experienced family law practitioner, her attorney will know what is reasonable and should not view negotiation of the fine points as "making waves" but the expected advocacy on your behalf.  Conversely, if your wife or her attorney have a "take it or leave it" attitude or attempt to coerce you into not obtaining your own attorney’s review, that may be a red flag that the proposal is inappropriately skewed in your wife’s favor or is a less than comprehensive proposal.


Richard Coffee is a Litigation Manager in the Belleville Illinois office of Cordell & Cordell. He is an experienced divorce attorney whose practice is devoted to domestic litigation. He is licensed in the State of Illinois and is admitted to practice law in the U.S. District Courts for Northern, Central and Southern Illinois.

Mr. Coffee has extensive domestic litigation trial experience representing clients in courts throughout Illinois on all aspects of domestic litigation, including the representation of clients who are current or retired military personnel with issues under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act and the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, clients involved in state court jurisdictional disputes due to the relocation of one or both parties from or to Illinois, and clients with government or private pension benefit valuation and division issues. 

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