It can be tempting to handle a family law case on your own. After all, you’re familiar with the facts and have a personal interest in the outcome. Aside from the stress, time, and emotions involved, there are some concrete reasons to hire a lawyer rather than try to represent yourself.
First and foremost, you need someone who knows the domestic laws relevant to your matter. When most people think of this critical element, they think of statutes. But familiarity with the law extends to court decisions that could have a bearing on your case. You also need someone who understands rules of civil procedure and local rules of court. There are also rules of evidence you need to follow.
Understanding the discovery process is important as well. Discovery is the collective name of methods used by either side to gain relevant knowledge about the case. Included within the umbrella of discovery are things like subpoenas, requests for production, and depositions. A lawyer will be familiar with these and other tools, along with procedural objections that can be raised.
The court system relies upon deadlines to keep cases moving. A skilled attorney will know deadlines as they pertain to pleadings, discovery, and answering subpoenas. Keeping track of deadlines is a significant part of the process, and missing one could jeopardize your case.
In any family law case, there are potentially endless parties beyond the plaintiff and defendant. There are witnesses for either side. There may be school professionals or therapists in custody cases. Some matters require expert witnesses, especially when complex financial issues are at stake. Still others involve custodians of records such as hospitals and banks. An experienced family law attorney will know who may be called upon or contacted for information concerning your case.
Another key task for your lawyer is to manage communications. This includes correspondence with the opposing counsel or opposing party. It also involves communications with the judge, clerks, and other court personnel. Sometimes the role of an attorney is to know what to say – or what not to say. A major responsibility of your lawyer is to protect confidential knowledge and to avoid disclosing potentially damaging facts unless necessary. This plays into settlement negotiations as well; there’s a time and place to reveal sensitive information.
Finally, having a skilled attorney will help maintain objectivity. When the subject matter is one’s spouse, children, or marital finances, it’s easy to see the facts in the light most favorable to you. But not maintaining objective judgment can prove damaging to your case. Having a full view of the facts, including those that don’t help your case, is vital.
Domestic litigation matters can be difficult endeavors. The last thing you need is to be taken advantage of by a skillful opposing counsel. If a family law case is in your future, invest the time and money in selecting a good, experienced attorney.