When you think of going to court, the first thing you probably think of is getting a lawyer. And if you’re being charged with a crime or filing a personal injury lawsuit in civil court, getting an attorney is the smart thing to do and a good first step. But if the case that you’re involved in is a family court case, like a divorce or a custody dispute, you may not actually need an attorney. In many family law cases, representing yourself is a perfectly reasonable option. Take a look at what you should know about the benefits of representing yourself in family law cases.
Of course, your family is more important than money. But realistically, lawyers are expensive, and a family law case is probably already costing you in other ways, like forcing you to take time off of work. Chances are that the money you would be spending on an attorney could be put to better use.
It’s important to hire lawyers for complicated cases, such as being charged with a serious crime, because lawyers know the ins and outs of courtroom procedure and the applicable laws and statutes. But most family court cases aren’t that complex. You don’t need to go to law school to represent yourself in a simple divorce – in most cases, you just need to be able to fill out and file the correct paperwork. Why pay a high-priced attorney for that?
Would it surprise you to learn that people who represent themselves in court emerge from the experience more satisfied with the judicial process than people who are represented by attorneys? Some research has shown just that.
Think about it this way: nobody cares about your family as much as you do. To an attorney, you’re just one client out of many. But to you, a family court case is likely to be your central priority. If you’re fighting for custody of your children, for example, you’ll know that if you represent yourself, you’re doing everything within your power to ensure that you get the outcome you’re looking for. Whatever the outcome, you’ll know that you did everything there was to do. You may not feel that way if you hire a lawyer to represent you. While most lawyers certainly do care about getting the best possible outcome for their clients, your situation won’t be personal to them. And while that’s a good thing in many cases, family court cases tend to be very personal and you may not be satisfied with an attorney who doesn’t prioritize your case the way that you would.
Contentious divorce and custody cases tend to get a lot of attention, but the fact is that many cases are relatively low-key. Often, couples work out divorce settlements or custody arrangements between themselves or with the help of a mediator, and going to court is merely a formality to finalize the agreements they’ve reached. A family court case doesn’t have to be a battle, and it won’t be if both parties are committed to coming to an amicable – or at least civil – arrangement.
But the hiring of an attorney is often the first sign that a family court case is going to be hostile. Hiring an attorney signals that you’re not interested in further communicating with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse or your child’s other parent – typically once attorneys are involved, they do the communicating on your behalf. This means that once you involve an attorney, your chances of reaching any mutually agreeable solution go down considerably. Representing yourself signals that you’re still open to communicating and compromising if possible, and can result in a less contentious arrangement. Remember that if you and your former partner have children together, you’ll need to be involved in each other’s lives in some way for years to come. The fewer hostilities between you, the better able you’ll both be to co-parent your children.
You Don’t Have to Go It Alone
Just because you’re not being represented by a lawyer doesn’t mean that you have to do it all on your own. A legal resource group can be a big help for someone dealing with a family law case. A legal resource group helps by giving you the information and assistance you need to successfully represent yourself.
When you use a legal resource group like National Family Solutions, you’ll receive advice and assistance from experts who understand the legal system in your area. They’ll evaluate your case first to make sure that it is a good idea for you to represent yourself. If you do have a case that would be better served by having representation from an attorney, your legal resource group can refer you to a trustworthy lawyer. Otherwise, a legal resources group will help you with document preparation, legal research, locating expert witnesses, preparing for court, and storing documents so that you can easily access them when you need them. With this kind of support, you’ll be prepared and able to go into court and advocate for yourself.
When You Do Need an Attorney
In some cases, it is better to be represented by an attorney. For example, when very large amounts of money or very valuable assets are at stake, when there are complicated financial matters, like businesses and trusts involved, or when there are serious allegations of wrongdoing, like child abuse, that may be factors in your case, you may need a qualified attorney.
However, most people are simply divvying up modest assets and trying to make reasonable custody and visitation agreements that don’t require advanced legal knowledge. If you’re not sure about your case, your best bet is to have your case evaluated by a legal resource group. That way, you won’t waste money on an attorney that you may not need, but you’ll get the information that you need to make the best decisions for your case going forward. Either way, you’ll be well prepared for your family court case.