If divorce is in your future, here are five more reasons why you should hire an experienced family law attorney and not represent yourself.
You Will Save Money in the Long Run
Because you don’t know the law, courtroom procedure, and the judge, hiring a family lawyer up front will save you money in the long run. An experienced divorce lawyer will, for example, (i) make sure you don’t pay more child support than you should (or receive the child support you should receive), (ii) make sure you don’t pay more spousal support than you should (or receive the spousal support you should receive), and (iii) make sure your community property assets and liabilities are divided fairly, including uncovering hidden assets and segregating your separate property that you are not required to divide. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish.
You Will Eliminate the Bully Factor
A represented spouse and his or her lawyer often attempt to intimidate and silence an unrepresented spouse by utilizing bullying tactics. Hiring an experienced divorce lawyer will negate these tactics. Under the Texas ethical rules, a lawyer cannot directly communicate with an opposing party who is represented by a lawyer, but rather, must contact the party’s lawyer. A good family lawyer also can shut down abusive communications directly between the spouses, thereby absorbing and buffering the other party’s hostility.
Your Stress Will be Reduced
Let’s face it, divorce is stressful. Going it alone is even more stressful for many of the previously discussed reasons. Hiring an attorney is a stressbuster. A divorce attorney will take care of the legal stuff, allowing you more time to take care of yourself and your family—which should be your number one priority.
You Will Accelerate the Process
An attorney’s knowledge, experience, familiarity with the judge, familiarity with other lawyers and their negotiating idiosyncrasies, and access to resources that you don’t know about will collectively equip the attorney to complete your divorce in substantially less time than it would take you to complete it—and make sure it’s done right the first time. That’s why lawyers do what lawyers do, and you do what you do. Experienced divorce lawyers have internal systems and procedures in place to streamline the process, meet deadlines, move the case forward, and finalize your divorce as quickly and efficiently as possible within the constraints of each county’s unique court system.
You Will Achieve Finality
A divorce decree is a lengthy, complex legal document covering numerous issues and future potential scenarios, including the division of property, future retirement account distributions, who pays the IRS, custody, visitation, and support. It must be carefully and thoughtfully crafted based on the unique facts and circumstances of your case. If it isn’t, post-divorce problems and disputes will arise that, in turn, will result in costly post-decree litigation—assuming the problems can even be fixed. This will be your fate if you draft your own divorce decree. Don’t waste money on a divorce kit. Hire the right lawyer. Make sure your divorce truly is final.
Your divorce is different than your buddy’s divorce. In this old world of sin and sorrow, you get what you pay for. Your buddy’s advice is free. Your buddy also does not have to live with the consequences of your divorce. You do the math. Hire an experienced family lawyer who adds real value to the process.
Sonya B. Coffman is a Board Certified divorce, custody, and family lawyer in Beaumont, Texas. She also is a CPA. Ms. Coffman regularly tries jury and non-jury divorce, custody, and property cases in the southeast Texas family courts. She makes sure her clients’ divorces are final.