I see it almost every day, some DIY-divorce-in-a-box for the low, low price of $395.99 and it’s even “state specific!”
These are almost always a disaster. They are a disaster for several reasons, but primarily because they are so often wrong, incomplete and inadequate. There is no uniform body of law in our country for Family Law. Each state has their own take on things, nuances and requirements.
Most lawyers are not out just to get your money. They want to help, usually. They want to be paid for their experience, expertise and specialized education.
Are there some duds? Yes. But, if you spend a few minutes researching, ask a trusted friend or other professional, you can usually get aimed in the right direction.
It may cost a little more on the front end, but long term having it done right is worth it.
Matthew Thompson is a family law attorney in Mississippi and hires a lawyer when he needs one too.
“He who represents himself has a fool for a client.”
– Abraham Lincoln
Oh, I have heard the stories that so-and-so did it and “won,” but that is the exception and not the rule. Family law cases are hard to manage anyway, much more so if you don’t know what you are doing and if your judgment is clouded by high emotions. I have seen many a Pro Se client just do awful.
Pro Se is the term the Courts use. It is Latin, meaning “for oneself.”
Lawyers have specific training and education regarding Court rules, rules of evidence and procedure. Legal matters require things be done in a certain fashion or they are not valid. Lawyers, usually, have experience with that particular area of the law and the Judge handling the matter.
I was involved in a case where the father, representing himself, sued the mother for interfering with his visitation, according to him. He filed the suit, had her served and got a Court date. Oops! He did it wrong. After filing, he should have gotten the Court date, had a summons issued (the correct summons by the way, a Rule 81 Summons in this instance) and then had the mother served. Because he did it wrong it, he could not get the relief he was seeking and had to do it over. In the meantime, mom met with her attorney, who asked the right questions. It turns out dad was well behind on his child support and that the child and the father had a significant altercation which prompted the visits to stop. Now, mom was armed with a lawyer, the law and filed against dad. Ultimately, dad was held in contempt for non-payment of support. He had to pay mom’s attorney fees and once the Judge heard about the altercation between the child and father, he ordered anger management counseling for dad and restricted visitation until dad re-petitioned the Court for visitation, after completing the counseling. I like to think that if I had represented dad it would have been a different outcome or perhaps dad could have tried to resolve things without Court involvement. He should have had an attorney. Click here for blogs on “Do I Need an Attorney?” & “How do I Find an Attorney?”
Representing yourself is about the worst thing you can do in a divorce and custody case!
Matthew Thompson is a family law attorney in Mississippi and thinks it wise to see an attorney before you try to represent yourself, and to not do it even after that.