I recently overheard someone in a bookstore telling a group of people why they should not have their own attorneys Divorce, how they could not trust lawyers, how lawyers would cheat them and how they should rely upon the company the speaker belonged to instead. That conversation got me thinking about why people facing separation and divorce need not just any lawyer, but a good divorce lawyer.
Reason #1-What You need to know
You need to know your rights, duties and responsibilities under the law. Only a lawyer who has been retained to represent your interests can advise you. How can you realistically discuss financial arrangements in separating and divorcing, if you don’t know what your rights, duties and responsibilities are? Not knowing what your rights are can result in not getting your fair share of assets, your fair share of support or your fair share of time with your children. Not knowing what your duties and responsibilities are can result in your paying more than your fair share of assets or your fair share of support. Most attorneys offer a special reduced rate for consulting services to encourage people to get advice early and often. There is no reason to rely on backyard fence advice, when you can get real advice from a qualified experienced divorce lawyer for a reasonable fee. Furthermore, in my experience, the backyard fence advice is usually wrong. Remember that if what you hear is half true, it is still wrong.
Reason #2-Backyard Advice
My friend is divorced. Why can’t I rely on my friend’s experience and knowledge. Well, you could do that but what you need to realize is that unless your friend is a licensed attorney, he/she is not authorized to practice law. Your friend’s knowledge will be limited to his/her particular experience. His/her experience with the law is limited to the facts of his/her case and the law as it was at the time. Things change. The law changes. Any change in the facts will change the outcome or advice. Furthermore, changes in the law will change the advice. Your friend simply lacks the knowledge and experience to give sound practical legal advice.
Reason #3-Identifying Issues
The sooner you get a lawyer, the sooner you will learn what you need to know to protect yourself (and your children and property interests). Sometimes people have no idea how to go about identifying the issues they need to discuss, even if the separation is an amicable one and the parties anticipate a “friendly divorce.” A good, experienced divorce lawyer can assist you in identifying the issues you need to discuss with your spouse to achieve a comprehensive agreement and global settlement. Over the years there have been numerous times when we were able to point out to clients areas they had initially overlooked and issues which should be included in their settlement discussions, such as life insurance, health insurance, and children’s educational needs.
Reason #4-To Share or Not to Share?
My spouse already has an attorney. Do I really need to get one too? Can’t the same lawyer represent us both? The answer is no, not really. 30 years ago when I first began practicing law, it was strictly forbidden for a lawyer to represent both sides to a divorce, no matter how “friendly” it was. There are some limited circumstances in which dual representation might be allowed, provided there is full disclosure of potential conflicts of interest and a waiver of conflicts with informed consent by both parties. These situations are limited and in the event that unhappy differences or disputes should arise, the attorney must end the representation and both parties must seek new counsel. Frankly, we rarely if ever agree to dual representation. We represent our clients zealously within the bounds of the law and the conflicts in representing opposing sides are too apparent for us to agree to do so. Not only that, but if your spouse has a lawyer, that means that he/she has already sought legal advice and has some rudimentary knowledge of his/her rights, duties and responsibilities under the law.