From working extra hours or taking an additional job, to cutting down on so-called “luxury” items or services, Americans are looking for ways to save money in this difficult economic climate. In fact, many are now electing to go without representation in otherwise important legal proceedings, including those involving divorce matters, child custody disputes or housing issues.
(A recent survey by the American Bar Association (ABA) asked judges from across the nation to identify some of the more notable effects that the recession has had on their local court system. Almost 60 percent identified the rise in the number of people acting as their own lawyer.)
While acting as your own lawyer is sometimes practical (and sometimes encouraged in uncontested divorce proceedings), is it necessarily the best option? What happens when contested matters (i.e., child custody, spousal support, property division) must be resolved in court?
People who elect self-representation in contested divorce matters are often at a distinct disadvantage. Why? They frequently lack a basic working knowledge of both the law and basic courtroom procedure (i.e., notice and discovery rules, the rules of evidence, etc.).
“When it comes down to a trial, they don’t know the rules of evidence to get their documents admitted, and they don’t know the way to present whatever they want to present,” said Judge Randy Rich of Gwinnett County, Georgia.
In addition to potentially jeopardizing their case, those who choose to represent themselves frequently end up costing state court systems extra time and money because the legal proceedings are drawn out. (Keep in mind that time and money are very important considerations in this era of budget cuts and lack of funding.)
Consequently, the decision to represent yourself in divorce matters or other legal proceedings, while certainly laudable, may not necessarily be the best option if you have the means to retain an attorney.
Simply put, an attorney can protect both your rights and your best interests.
If you do not have such means to retain an attorney, you may consider contacting a local Legal Aid center to learn if they can provide you with assistance.
This post is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.
Stay tuned for more from our Ft. Worth family law blog …
More People Forgo Lawyers, Represent Themselves (Atlanta Journal Constitution)