The decision of whether to hire an attorney to represent you in your family law case can be boiled down to a cost-benefit analysis. Lawyers are not free, so the question becomes whether having an attorney provides enough return on investment to outweigh what you will pay him or her to represent you. A brief look at what a family law case is like and how an attorney can help you through it makes clear that having an attorney is well worth it.
What am I up against?
If you are facing a divorce, a custody case, a support issue, or any other family law matter, you probably already recognize that what you are dealing with is a big deal. Decisions are going to be made that will affect your children, your livelihood, and other aspects of your life that you cannot yet foresee. This is made more daunting by the fact that these decisions are going to be made through a formal and adversarial litigation process in the courts – a process that is likely to be wholly unfamiliar to you. And you will not get a do-over; it will be difficult – if not impossible – to change these decisions in the future if things go badly.
This reality check is not meant to frighten you, but to simply make clear that you are facing a situation that calls for – and requires – your best shot. You will want to have done what was necessary to give yourself the best chance to achieve the best outcome. That is the only way you will make peace with the final resolution of your case, whether good or bad. Your best chance to achieve the best outcome is to have high quality legal representation.
What are the advantages of having an attorney?
One of the main reasons why good lawyers lead to good outcomes is that they know the laws that apply to your situation, and they have training and experience in using those laws to advocate for your position. What is the legal basis for determining who gets custody of the children? How will the judge decide whether either party will have to pay spousal support? What is the law regarding division of retirement benefits? For a person involved in a family law case who does not have an attorney, trying to acquire and master this body of knowledge in the middle of an emotional family crisis is essentially impossible. A knowledgeable family law attorney, on the other hand, literally makes it his or her job to know the answers to those substantive questions of law. An experienced family law attorney is also trained and well-versed in persuasively showing how application of those legal principles to the facts of your case leads to the conclusion that your desired outcome is the best one. That is how family law cases are won, and, if there is an attorney representing the other side in your case, you can bet that is what he or she is going to be trying to do. An unrepresented party who does not actually know what the law requires him or her to prove – or how to prove it – will be able to offer little resistance.
The issue of “how to prove it” provides perhaps an even more stark illustration of the advantage of having an attorney. As mentioned above, family law disputes in our society are resolved by the application of laws and rules in a formal, adversarial litigation process. Michigan law is clear: unrepresented parties are acting as their own attorneys, and judges are to hold them to the same formal laws and rules as licensed, trained attorneys. Those laws and rules lay out a very nuanced, rigid procedure for proving your case. When is testimony inadmissible because it is hearsay, and what are the exceptions to the hearsay rule? How does one use a records custodian to introduce documents into evidence? What subjects are the children permitted to testify about? Proving your case in a court of law means navigating these rules and laws to place enough admissible evidence into the record to convince the judge of your position. That is the difference between winning and losing. An unrepresented party who arrives at trial unable to do that has lost before he or she walks through the courthouse door.
The real costs
You can certainly save yourself money on the front end by not hiring an attorney. But, as we have seen, the costs of that decision can quickly swallow up those savings, whether that means losing your pension, custody of your children, your home, or something else. It could also mean knowing that you chose not to give yourself the best chance to reach the best outcome. That is a cost that is very hard to put a dollar amount on.
Can’t Find an Answer to Your Question About Hiring an Attorney for Your Family Law Case?
If you have a question about the decision of whether to hire an attorney that was not included in this article, please call our office and Michigan family law and divorce attorney Carlo J. Martina can answer your questions. Mr. Martina can also represent you in all family law and divorce proceedings to ensure your rights and interests are protected.
Call Michigan divorce lawyer Carlo J. Martina today at (734) 254-1140 to schedule a consultation.