For most people, the decision to file for divorce is itself one of the most stressful and gut-wrenching ones in their lives, and is often made after many months or years of going back-and-forth deciding what to do.
The next step after deciding to file for divorce is whether to retain a divorce attorney or not. California family law courts do allow you to present yourself “in pro per” in family law proceedings. However, is that the right way to handle your divorce case? NO!
Although that answer is coming from a divorce attorney, it is an honest answer based on years of experience handling divorce and family law cases. Even if your divorce is uncontested, there are very few assets of the marriage, and perhaps there are no children involved, you should still at least have legal counsel for guidance and to make sure your case is resolved properly.
There is a reason why the saying goes “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.”
I once handled an Orange County family law case for an ex-husband where the parties had both settled their case by themselves and seemingly he thought he had gotten a good resolution of his case. However, he had thought that he had gotten a waiver of spousal support from his wife in the divorce judgment, but the wording in the divorce judgment was clearly not drafted by an attorney. Ultimately, having handled his divorce himself came back to bite him, because the spousal support waiver was not worded properly and did not hold up. I assisted him in working out his case at that point but in reality he spent more money than he would have had to pay if he had retained a divorce attorney in the beginning to do the job right.
Most divorce cases are never “easy.”
Even when you think your divorce is “easy,” the divorce process, the steps involved and, most importantly, the potential pitfalls that may arise in resolving your case are all more complicated than you may realize. You are better to retain competent legal counsel to represent your best interests in your divorce case and get it done right, thereby avoiding vagueness and potential loopholes and pitfalls in your divorce judgment that could come back to haunt you later.
Moreover, the divorce process itself can be very confusing and overwhelming, and I have had many clients who originally tried to handle their case themselves, only to realize that it was a task that they could not really take on and handle adequately themselves. Moreover, with all of the issues generally involved in a divorce case, including division of assets and debts, custody, child support, spousal support, division of retirement accounts, etc., the resolution of those issues fairly and properly by yourself can be daunting when emotions are already high.
If you have to go to court because you cannot resolve all issues with your spouse, appearing in court in front of a judge by yourself is incredibly nerve-whacking, and unless you have a legal background, you do not possess the knowledge and skills to represent your own best interests and get the best possible outcome.
If your spouse has a divorce attorney, YOU need a divorce attorney.
I have sometimes been asked if a potential client should retain a divorce attorney because the other party has legal counsel who says he can “handle everything” for both parties. My answer generally is “yes.” Even though that other attorney may appear to have the best intentions, the fact of the matter is that the attorney is representing your spouse, not you. At a minimum, you need a divorce attorney to review the divorce paperwork and any proposed divorce judgment in your case to advise you of your rights and to make suggestions. I generally tell someone whose spouse has legal counsel that they also need legal counsel, because there is always a possibility that without one, you will get taken advantage of.
For further information or to schedule a consultation with Orange County divorce lawyer Gerald Maggio of The Maggio Law Firm, please call (949) 553-0304 or visit www.maggiolawfirm.com. The Maggio Law Firm is an experienced divorce and family law firm serving the Orange County and Riverside areas and neighboring counties, serving clients with legal issues including divorce, legal separation, divorce mediation, spousal support, child support and child custody issues.