Can (Or Should) You Represent Yourself in Family Court?

Are you the Do-It-Yourself  (DIY) type?  Many people are very self-reliant.  They are intelligent, have a college education, access to a computer (hey, you found this article) and consider themselves quite practical.  These people paint their own living room, change their car’s oil, research grass/lawn care and have a fabulous lush green front yard.  These people might even fix their own sink if it clogs, and they never panic at the sight of blood.  So naturally, they are confident that they can handle their own divorce, or arrange a custody or child support order.

So, why should you hire a lawyer to handle these pesky little legal issues?  Consider the following.

Those who are Pro-se (do you know what that word means?) are expected to know the Rules of Court.  At last count, it is a 2,843 page book.  Are you Plaintiff or Defendant?  What if you have an existing Court Order and you want it modified – are you still the same Plaintiff and Defendant from the first order?

To what are you entitled in a divorce action?  What if your spouse cheated?  Shouldn’t the scum of the earth pay for it?  What about that 401K that you diligently saved?  Its all yours, right?  Or is it?  What about the money you inherited from your father?  Or the credit card debt that your spouse racked up re-decorating the house – you never wanted that 50″ Smart TV, or the X-box, or the fancy throw pillows.  Best Buy and Bed Bath & Beyond don’t care.  So which spouse pays that bill?

Child support?  Just submit your paystubs and the court can figure it out.  But what if the paystubs do not reflect the true income.  Then what?  What if you or your ex have children with other people?  Is that relevant?  What about college?  Who pays the tuition?  What if you believe the child should pursue the military instead?

DIY-ers can probably find all of this information by doing research.  But when are you going to do that research?  On your days off?  After work?  Issues in Family Court are not weekend projects like painting your living room or fixing the sink.  On average, an uncontested divorce – truly uncontested– takes about 3 months.  Mildly contested actions take at about a year, and highly contentious matters can last 2 years or more.  Even a motion for child support can take 2-3 months.  That’s a long time to DIY, especially if it becomes emotionally draining, as most family issues do.

Think about it.  Yes, you can DIY if you are willing and able to invest the time and energy (physical and emotional) that is required.  Or, you can hire a lawyer who already knows these answers.  Then you can spend your weekend with your children, or changing your oil, or working on your yard.  Maybe you could even meet a match at Starbucks!

If you decide to DIY, good luck.  If you decide to hire a lawyer, make sure you are comfortable.  A good fit between attorney and client makes for a happier ending.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, I can be reached at 609-904-3020.  Find and Like my professional Facebook page for informative posts to like and share!