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If you and your spouse are planning to file for an uncontested divorce, you may wonder whether you need to hire an attorney. The answer is almost always yes. 

Many divorce forms use statutory or outdated language, and people often sign these documents without fully understanding what the terms mean. You may be emotional during the divorce process and end up agreeing to provisions that are unfair to one person or the other. 

Understanding the term “uncontested”

People often misunderstand the term “uncontested divorce.” An uncontested divorce is not merely a situation where both parties want to get divorced and is not an alternate term for a no-fault divorce. An uncontested divorce means that you and your spouse agree about every aspect of the divorce, including property division, debt allocation, child custody, visitation, alimony, child support and retirement benefits. If there is even one area where you disagree, your divorce is not uncontested. 

Understanding what is at stake

Your divorce decree is likely to be the most important document in your life moving forward. It may affect what you own, the taxes you pay, the debt you owe, the insurance you carry and your future income and obligations. Your divorce decree may dictate the terms of your future relationship with your children, how often you see them and your rights to make decisions about their futures. Your divorce decree may even affect your retirement savings, pension, 401(k) and life insurance benefits. 

Sometimes, a person files for divorce without a lawyer and then realizes midway through the process that he or she needs an attorney. While you may hire a lawyer at any time, understand that your attorney is often bound by the documents you have already signed. With so much at stake, it is always a good idea to have a lawyer throughout the entire process.