People often ask me whether or not they need to hire a lawyer for a divorce or other case in family court. Ultimately, it is up to you to make that decision. I have seen many people represent themselves, and I have seen enough to know that you are definitely at a disadvantage representing yourself in family court if the other side has a lawyer. I get a lot of calls from people who have attended their first court hearing and felt like the judge didn’t listen to them but did listen to the lawyer representing the opposing party. I have seen it many times myself. It is not because judges don’t want to listen to people who don’t have a lawyer, but usually the person doesn’t know what information is important to a judge or the best way to present that information. If you have a lawyer, and the other side doesn’t, you have a huge advantage in court. If the other side has a lawyer, and you don’t, then you need a lawyer just to make it even.
That doesn’t mean that everyone needs a lawyer in family court. There are two situations that make it unnecessary to hire a lawyer. The first is if both sides agree on everything, and the agreement is fair. It may seem hard to believe, but many people are able to agree to be fair with each other. The second situation is when you basically have nothing to lose. If you are going through a divorce, and you don’t have any children or significant assets or debts, then there may not be any need to hire a lawyer.
There is a common saying about gambling that you should never gamble more than you can afford to lose. The same can be said about family court. Representing yourself in family court is basically a form of gambling. If you don’t really have anything to lose, then no problem. However, if children are involved, or if you have any significant assets or debts, or if one person is asking for spousal maintenance (alimony), then you are gambling on something you cannot afford to lose. If that is the case, you need a lawyer.