Some people think, “I can save a lot of money on attorney fees if I do not hire an attorney.” Perhaps, but what will it cost you in the long run? There is a plethora of hidden risks that people take when they decide to try to handle their divorce by themselves, which is called representing yourself “pro-se.” There is the old adage that “he who represents him [or herself] has a fool for a client.” I remember second-guessing this adage prior to law school. I thought, “What can a lawyer do that the rest of us cannot?” I have given this topic a lot of thought and have decided that I will hire an attorney myself if I have a personal legal issue. What made me change my mind?
You may lose rights that you never knew you had.
Obviously, if you are not paying an attorney – you will save money upfront. Even though people do go through simple divorces without an attorney, the chances of a divorce remaining simple is low. I often hear of people who represent themselves through the divorce process and I am not surprised to find out that they lost many rights that they would have kept had they hired a good family law attorney. There are numerous rights that most people are unaware that they have. Without an attorney advising them, those that self-represent as pro-se will remain in the dark, unaware about their rights when they could have, and should have, received a better settlement.
Going through the grieving process involved in divorce is not the best time to handle the most important issues of your life by yourself.
When we are emotionally invested with our own case, as the case often is when we represent ourselves, we allow our passion to blind our ability to reason. The divorce process is an emotional rollercoaster of highs and lows that some describe as being more painful than the death of a loved one. It would logically follow that we will experience the same stages of grief that we experience when a loved one dies. Such emotional turmoil creates a passion in us that clouds our normal reasoning ability. Thus, self-represented divorcees have a high likelihood of unreasonably focusing their attention on matters of slight, if any, significance. This causes them to miss the forest for the trees and they end up becoming less likely to obtain the outcome they seek. We often hear the old saying that “we are our own worst enemy.” I believe that to be true when going through the divorce process and that is one of the reasons why I will hire an attorney to represent myself. Good family law attorneys can see our cases from an objective and professional perspective. Such a perspective allows them to avoid missing the forest for the trees, keeps their focus on the relevant issues that will help us and our cases, protects us from further emotional turmoil, and guards our rights through the process.
Avoid being the person who has a fool for a client and invest in your future.
Why is it said that he who represents himself has a fool for a client? The self-represented pro-se divorcee is likely to lose much more money in the long run than they would have spent had they hired an attorney who can help them understand their rights and mediate, negotiate, or litigate to keep them. The long term costs of the loss of rights affect our pocketbook, our children’s lives, and our own quality of life. How much time would you like to have with your kids? What will your parenting plan look like? How will your assets be divided? There is something to be said about letting your attorney work for you to advocate for your future. We would not have to negotiate with our spouse or ex-spouse directly. This can protect us from a lot of the emotional costs involved in our divorce case.
The heavy costs of self representation through the divorce process.
At first glance, it may seem like a good idea to go through the divorce process on your own. After all you can save upfront costs on attorney fees. However, your long term financial and emotional costs may outweigh your short term benefit. Thus, if you would like to save yourself more money in the long run, be able to rest assured that your case is being handled professionally and that your rights are being watched out for, rather than attempting to deal with the complexities of the law while you are going through the grieving process, then I recommend hiring a good family law attorney to work for you through the divorce process.
James P. McGarvey
Intermountain Legal, p.c.