The court system and legal process can be complex and convoluted for many, but probably especially for people who do it independently without an attorney. There are couples who are able to amicably divorce without much fuss, then there are those who are locked in a messy divorce that costs them a lot of time, money, and sanity.
Many people file divorces without formal attorney representations. For assistance, they may read self-help books, research on the Internet, or seek help with a family law facilitator or self-help desk in their local courthouses.
Do note that if you decide to represent yourself, the Judge will not give you special treatment just because you are unfamiliar with the law or court rules.
There are various factors to consider before concluding on whether or not you should retain a lawyer for your divorce.
How complicated is your case?
Property division disputes, support and child custody disputes can all get very complicated and adversarial. A lawyer can help explain your rights and duties in addition to giving you an idea on the probable outcomes before the court. More importantly, a lawyer can help advocate to get you the most favorite result for you.
Are Parties in agreement?
If you and your spouse are unable to agree or just cannot communicate with one another, a lawyer can help bridge the communication between the parties. The lawyer can help offer you a reality check if your expectations or demands are unrealistic and give you a better idea on what to expect.
Are you too emotionally invested in the divorce?
Many people are not prepared for the emotional effects of divorce where they tend to feel a mixture of anger, guilt, fear, or grief among other feelings and things happening around them. Attorneys can negotiate on your behalf as they are less emotionally invested in the matter and can more effectively negotiate with your spouse.
Do you understand California divorce law?
A divorce lawyer has been educated and specifically trained on the case law, rules and procedures in Family Law. The lawyer is able to help guide you through the entire legal process from what forms and documents to file, when statutory and case law applies, and knows how to advocate on your behalf before the Court and with the other side. The attorney will be able to prepare and file all the necessary and applicable paperwork, and file the necessary motions to handle the issues while your divorce is pending.
Can you afford to pay for a lawyer?
Often times, people choose to forgo hiring a lawyer for their divorce case due to the costs. If you are considering self-representation because you cannot afford to hire or pay for a lawyer, a judge may order your spouse to pay for your lawyer if he or she has more resources than you. If this occurs, your lawyer can file a Motion for Attorney’s Fees and ask the Court to order your spouse to pay for your legal fees. Some lawyers offer a flat fee or lower hourly rates for their services. Other lawyers may offer their services pro bono. There are also lawyer organizations and legal aid services that focuses on serving low-income individuals.
Ultimately, the decision on whether you hire a lawyer or not for your divorce is your own. If you are able to work with your spouse on the major issues such as children, support, and property division, there will not really be a need for lawyers to be involved. However, if you find yourself locked in a disagreement on the divorce, you should consider retaining legal counsel. Additionally, it is always wise to hire an attorney if your spouse has already hired one.
At CHH Law, P.C., our Family Law attorneys are experienced and understand the emotional aspect of divorce cases. If you find yourself considering or in the process of a divorce, it may be in your best interest to consult with one of our attorneys, who can guide you through these difficult times.
By Kevin Liu, Esq.