While the short answer is no, you can get divorced without an attorney, the long answer is that having a lawyer can make a big difference. In a typical divorce there are many decisions to be made that will have significant impacts on you and your children for years to come. A lawyer can help you think through the choices, help you negotiate with the other side, and help represent your interests to the court if the case ends up in court.
If you have children, there are many decisions to be made around parenting. Not only about who the children will live with, but what the residential schedule will be with each parent, how vacation time will be apportioned, what issues will require joint decision making, and how parenting disputes will be resolved. Often these are not easy issues for a couple to work out on their own so the assistance of a lawyer in the negotiations can be very helpful. Even if a couple is able to work out an agreed parenting arrangement on their own, attorneys have seen many of the issues that can come up down the road and can help you craft a parenting plan that anticipates such issues so they don’t turn into arguments later.
With financial issues such as property division and support, an attorney can help you examine your needs and the needs of your children, advise you as to what rights the law may give you and what might happen if you went to court, let you know what evidence needs to be collected, and can organize the presentation of the facts about your case in the most effective and convincing manner.
In negotiations and in court, your lawyer will know how best to respond to arguments raised by the other side, and can answer your legal questions as new issues arise.
Finally, even if you have agreed on everything and just need the legal documents to finalize your divorce, a lawyer knows how to draft the documents properly so that your intent is carried out. Improperly drafted divorce documents can be very costly in the end. If you do your own papers, not realizing that an asset needs to be included could mean it is still owned partly by your spouse. Not carefully laying out the conditions for sale of a piece of property could mean your ability to purchase a new home would be hurt, or that you might never even receive the money awarded to you in the divorce.
Just as I could cause a lot of damage trying to fix my own house or car (things I know little about), you can make costly mistakes doing your own divorce without the guidance of a professional in the field.