Amazingly, I still get asked this question by intelligent professional people who would never ask this question of their doctor, car mechanic or accountant. Yes, there are some situations where there are no children involved and the assets and liabilities are minimal and a "summary dissolution" procedure where you generally do not need lawyers is appropriate. However, it is adviseable to retain an attorney at the outset if there are custody, support and property issues. Failure to do so before you file a Petition for Dissolution may prejudice your case. Simply because you hire an attorney does not mean that there will be a long drawn out battle. Lawyers and Judges are usually settlement orientated and want to see the parties make their own decisions with minimal conflict. There are also different models for reach agreement in a divorce such as mediation and collaborative law. However, there are situations where conflcit is inevitable and the Courts will be involved. This often results in the so called "out spouse" with less resources being in a difficult financial position and unable to hire an attorney. When one spouse is at a financial disadvantge the Court's are mandated by California law to level the playing field and make an award of attorney fees so that both spouses have the ability to litigate. If the "in spouse" will not voluntarily advance legal fees, the "out spouse" is well advised to file a Motion for Attorneys Fees early in the case. In fact, if the litigation becomes protracted there is nothing stopping a spouse from making several applications for attorneys fees during the course of the litigation.