Recently, there has been a noticeable increase in self-represented cases or “Pro Se” litigants appearing in Family Court. It appears that many people are concerned about the cost of paying an attorney to represent them in their divorce, custody, or family law case and they believe that going it alone is a great way to save money or they feel like they can handle their legal matter on the advice of “a friend” or something they read online… In college, I once decided during final exams that it was a great time to make decisions about changing my hair color… Due to my attempt to exercise frugality, I allowed my (completely unqualified/ nursing student) roommate to apply drug-store-purchased boxed brunette color to my blonde hair. She was smart and could read the instructions on the box. I am sure you are not surprised to learn that I soon found myself panicked to book an appointment with an experienced hair stylist to help me remove that fabulous green tint. I was desperate to have a professional correct my mistake (immediately), and I paid the price in multiple corrective treatments to get me to the condition I would have otherwise been in easily - had I paid for the professional services from the beginning. Legal decisions are obviously far more important than hair color, but the same general premise is true for any professional service. If you cut corners in an area where you are not professionally qualified, more likely than not, “You get what you pay for.”
While beginning your case unrepresented may save you the initial retainer, it can cost you big time in final results. Your marital assets, the custody and visitation that you maintain with your child(ren), initial awards of spousal or child support, and many other major legal decisions are not wise to gamble in such highly emotional times. Consider the following benefits of hiring a knowledgeable and competent family lawyer:
1. Knowledge and Understanding of the Law: A great family lawyer understands the law as it relates to almost every element of your case. There are filing deadlines, practice procedures, objections, court rules, and rules of evidence. You may not understand them, but they do.
2. Case Strategy: The best family lawyers will think strategically from the initial filing until the last detail in order to get you the best results. This often includes having a big picture approach for your future while managing the smaller details of your current situation. Waiting until the “fourth quarter” to develop your strategy can cost you the whole game; just as failing to realize that some future event is a big deal until after the Final Order is signed sometimes cannot be undone.
3. Ability to Keep Emotions Separated: An excellent family lawyer is empathetic to your emotions while keeping their objective and rational point of view as your advocate. Take comfort in knowing that the advice of your attorney is coming from a third party who does not have an emotional interest in the results of your case during a time when it is expected that you will experience a range of feelings.
4. Advice on Final Decisions: A great family lawyer has a real understanding of the advantages, disadvantages, and potential outcomes from taking your case to court as opposed to maintaining control and negotiating an agreement. You should definitely grasp and understand the information for yourself, but trust an experienced family lawyer to be honest with you about the legitimacy of your expectations.
5. Communication: The best family lawyer communicates with you through each step of the process and keeps you informed, answers your questions, and listens to your thoughts and ideas.
Invest in excellent representation from the beginning of your legal situation if you are faced with a family law issue. With the right counsel, the cost of representation will be money well spent.