In California, there is no law that requires you to hire legal representation in a family law case. Therefore, you always have the option to represent yourself. If you are thinking about filing for divorce, or if your spouse has already begun the divorce process, which may include a number of other legal issues, such as Child Custody and/or Support, you may be wondering, “What will a Family Law Attorney do for me that I could not do for myself?”
In order to answer this question, we found it helpful to look at several of our client’s cases where they represented themselves before hiring an Attorney. Based on these observations, here is a list of 5 main reasons one would want to hire a Family Law Attorney.
- EXPERIENCE: Family law attorneys have experience handling cases like yours 100 times over, and can provide you at the outset with course(s) of actions would be best for you in proceeding with your case – including your options in areas like child custody, child support, spousal support and division of assets.
- OBJECTIVE SUPPORT: A family law attorney can be more objective about your case than you can, and will not make any rash decisions in handling your case. While attorneys represent your best interests, they are not personally or emotionally involved in the situation, which positions them to negotiate on your behalf and resolve your legal issues effectively. For example, high emotions may push a party to seek going to trial, when it is not in her/his best interest. Perhaps, the value of objective support is best illustrated by the fact that many talented and experienced attorney’s hire attorney’s to represent themselves in their own cases.
- RED TAPE: Simple filing or procedural mistakes cost self-represented parties time, money and unnecessary stress. An experienced attorney can work through the complex maze of paperwork that is necessary in resolving your family law issue(s), so that you can move on with your life. In California, self-represented parties are held to the same procedural standards and must follow the proper rules of evidence as licensed attorney’s. Therefore, if you fail to draft a motion correctly, or improperly serve a document, or even fail to file a document by the filing deadline, the judge has the discretion to exclude any or all of those documents. Further, if evidence is presented improperly, the judge will most likely exclude it.
- EXPERIENCE WORKING WITH OTHER LAWYERS AND JUDGES: There is a common misconception about the law that attorneys are fiercely opposed to one another in the court room, where they fight about every last detail. While attorney’s do strongly advocate for their client’s rights, an experienced family law attorney deals most effectively and expediently with opposing counsel through collaborative and professional exchanges of information, informal settlement negotiations, and in Alternative Dispute Resolution settings, where their clients end up spending less money while also securing favorable results early in the process.
- CLOSURE: If issues aren’t properly covered in a divorce judgment, custody and/or support order, then problems and disputes will likely arise in the future. These future conflicts can result in post-judgment or order-modification litigation, which is expensive and can be even more of a headache the second time around. Experience family law attorney’s will know how and which preventative measures to take the first time around, to ensure there are no loose ends that may haunt you in the future.
Ultimately, the decision to represent yourself or hire a family law attorney is one only you can make. Our hope here at MATIAS FLORES LAW FIRM is that you are informed before doing so.