We live in an age of “do it yourself”. People are used to going on YouTube or watching a television shows and learning how to do a tasks which they never thought they could handle. Consequently, it is not unusual for people to think that they can handle a divorce without hiring an attorney. However, there are many reasons why it is wise to hire an experience Board Certified divorce attorney. They include:
- You do not know what you do not know. A divorce attorney will make sure that you are protected. Unless you have a formal education or experience in the area of law, you would not know how to protect yourself. A Family or Marital attorney can evaluate your situation and let you know the likely outcome if you take your case to court. They can suggest options which you did not even know existed. Based on their experience with the judge and/or similar cases such as yours, a Board-Certified divorce attorney will be able to offer a variety of legally acceptable options to resolve your case;
- Paperwork. Proceeding through a divorce case is like being buried alive with an avalanche of paperwork. Paperwork needs to be filled out and filed with the court. There will be demands for you to provide various forms of financial records and other documents. There will also be requirements for you to fill out various forms and/or pleadings. Knowing which forms and which information you need for your unique situation can be challenging by itself. Collecting those forms and organizing them and presenting them in a proper format, either during the divorce or at the time of trial requires experience and expertise.
- Discovering hidden assets. In 40 years of conducting divorce practice, I seldom had a case in which one spouse or the other was not claiming that their “dearly beloved” was hiding money or assets in some fashion or another. Spouses in a divorce case are seldom on the same timeline in terms of deciding that the marriage is over or preparing for the divorce. Consequently, under such circumstances one spouse may attempt to hide assets or income. Having an experienced divorce attorney will assist you in uncovering such attempted “slight of hand”, or will help assure you that everything is on “the up and up”‘;
- A third- party objective viewpoint. If you are going through a divorce, you are on an emotional roller coaster. You need all of the objective third-party advice that you can get. The advantage of a divorce attorney is providing you a view of your circumstances and the alternatives from which you have to select from the “big picture” or a “10,000 foot view”. While you may be focused on attempting to “win” your case, your divorce attorney will be concentrating on creating the best deal or result possible for you. Staying focused and objective may be very difficult while you are experiencing feelings of sadness, fear, depression, frustration, rage and/or confusion. If you are thinking of representing yourself, you need to be aware of your emotions. Your emotional state may prevent you from making wise decisions about your future, or taking the necessary objective viewpoint so that you can resolve your case in a Settlement Agreement without “giving away the farm”‘
- Speed up the process. When you have an attorney representing you, you will have an advocate and a professional who can educate you on what is required to move your case forward procedurally through the court system. That means you should be able to obtain a settled result or have a final hearing or trial on your case sooner than you would if you were trying to maneuver through, the sometimes less than clear processes and procedures necessary to get your case to trial or resolved.
- To act as a buffer. Some people have difficulty communicating with their spouses when they are married. Under such circumstances, it becomes almost impossible to speak rationally with your spouse during a divorce. Your attorney can assist you in communicating with your spouse (if he or she is unrepresented) or your spouse’s attorney. Your attorney will also buffer you and assist you in being able to understand and communicate in a more reasonable and less emotional fashion.
As an experienced divorce lawyer, I often review Settlement Agreements reached by people who did not have attorneys representing them. Often, the question is, how can they undo the terms of agreement that they have authored and/or fostered by representing themselves. Unfortunately, many times even experienced attorneys cannot undo the damage that a person may have done to their divorce case, even if they were proceeding in good faith while doing so. To avoid this, always at the very least seek the advice of an experienced Board Certified divorce attorney at the beginning and periodically during your case (if you insist on doing it yourself). Under no circumstances should you ever sign a Final Settlement Agreement until you have had it reviewed carefully by an experienced Board Certified Marital and Family Law attorney. Your best results often will occur if you have an attorney representing you throughout your case. However, if you don’t have the financial capacity to do so, then have your Settlement Agreement reviewed by a Board Certified Marital and Family Law Attorney