Tim and Courtney have been married for eight years. They live in a rental apartment and have one child. They each work outside the home and earn $40,000 per year. They have decided to divorce, but their break up is comparatively amicable. They agree between themselves about how to divide the property and debts they have. With the help of a court-affiliated mediator, they have agreed to a joint custody arrangement with their child. Do Courtney or Tim need a lawyer to handle the divorce?
An opening question when faced with a legal problem is: “Is it necessary to hire an attorney?" The answer -- as you probably can guess -- is: “It depends." The need for an attorney varies with the situation. Many factors should be considered. Among them:
If you have been served with a pile of legal papers from someone who is suing you and you don’t understand what the papers mean or what you should do next, you should consult an attorney. If you do understand the legal issues and the steps you need to take, your need for an attorney may be less.
The old adage goes, “A person who represents himself has a fool for a client." Much of the time (maybe most of the time) that is true, but some people are good at representing themselves. A key issue in deciding to represent yourself instead of hiring a lawyer is your level of emotional involvement and ability to take a detached view of the controversy. If you are very angry at the other party (such as in a bitterly contested divorce or contested adoption), it is best to have independent legal help to present the case in an organized, professional way. If you can keep a lid on your emotions and present logical arguments in negotiations or in court, then you may be able to represent yourself effectively. If you already have a lawyer, you may want to consider hiring another lawyer -- not for full representation, but for a second opinion. Just as patients often want a second opinion before undertaking major medical treatment, it can be prudent to seek a second legal opinion before taking a major legal action that could impact your life for years to come.
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