You may have seen cars sporting bumper stickers that say, "If you think education's expensive, try ignorance." There could just as easily be one that says, "If you think hiring an attorney is expensive, try representing yourself."
There is no doubt that hiring an attorney costs money. But too often people look at what they are paying in attorney fees and do not think about what those fees are saving them. Those savings come under four headings: time, relationships, stress, and, of course, money. Let's take a look at each in turn:
It makes sense that someone who has performed a task a hundred times before will perform it better and more efficiently than someone who has never done it. That is certainly true with regard to family law matters in court. Your attorney knows what papers need to be filed, where, and what they must contain. There may be various deadlines throughout the case which, if missed, could have very negative consequences for you.
Not only will having an attorney save you the time of preparing and filing pleadings (and the time of doing it again if you did something wrong the first time), but having an attorney can shorten the length of your divorce or other family law matter by helping you negotiate a resolution sooner.
You may think that your relationship with your ex or soon-to-be-ex is already over, but in reality, it is just transforming, especially if you have children. You will have to co-parent with each other for years to come. For that reason it's worth maintaining a cordial relationship if you can. Unfortunately, the process of divorce or other family law matters often leads to escalating hostility particularly when emotions run high. Attorneys serve as a buffer between you and your partner negotiating objectively and effectively based on the law and facts not emotion.
It's not just your relationship with your co-parent that's at stake. Without an attorney representing you, you may very well end up with a custody and parenting time arrangement that gives you far less time with your children than you'd like.
Most people who are dealing with a family law matter are doing so for the first time. In addition to the stress of a deteriorating relationship, they're dealing with an unfamiliar legal system. Having an attorney won't lessen the pain of the relationship issues, but it will make a tremendous difference in your stress over the legal process. You are still treading on unfamiliar ground but you now have a knowledgeable guide who can prepare you for and often protect you from the perils that lie ahead.
You may be willing to spend the time to file and manage your own case and be resigned to sacrificing relationships and enduring stress, but what if saving money by not hiring an attorney actually costs you more money in the the long run? The reality is that it probably will cost you more if you do not know the law. Most divorces, probably upward of 95%, end in settlement not trial. That means someone has negotiated the terms of an agreement. If your spouse is represented by an attorney, and you are not, you are operating at a serious disadvantage. People routinely settle for smaller property awards than when they have a knowledgeable attorney negotiating for them. You could end up paying more spousal maintenance or child support, or receiving less, than you would with a good family law attorney's help. Over time, this could add up to tens of thousands of dollars.
The question then is not whether you can afford an attorney, but whether you can afford not to have one.
Please feel free to contact us at Mundahl Law with any questions you have regarding the benefits of representation to help achieve the outcome you deserve. We look forward to hearing from you.