What do you call 1,000 lawyers up to their necks in sand? Not enough sand.
Lawyers… who needs ‘em, right?
Well, you might. Particularly where family matters are concerned.
As an experienced Family Law practitioner and Dispute Resolution Officer, I have on many occasions dealt with unrepresented parties. In the legal world, “unrepresented” means you don’t have a lawyer. The reasons why individuals choose not to retain a lawyer to help them navigate through their family law litigation vary. In some cases, people simply cannot afford to hire one.
More often than not, legal aid or some alternative means of retaining a lawyer are available. But most unrepresented people take on this role voluntarily. Here are five reasons why representing yourself, without the help of a lawyer, is a bad idea.
The Rules and Statutes of Family Law
While they are accessible online, they can be lengthy and complex, and if you have limited experience dealing with legislation and statutory interpretation, simply having access to the rules and statutes will not be enough. You need someone to guide you through what impact the rules and statutes can have on your case, whether positive or negative.
Going to Court requires that you draft materials. A lot of documents. Under very few circumstances would you walk into a Court room to argue a matter without having first drafted materials that were served on the opposing party and then filed with the Court. Chances are you only get divorced once… or maybe twice… but in any event, you have much less experience drafting Court materials than lawyers do. Writers, of any kind, are supposed to cater to their target audience; therefore it is a big advantage to have a professional draft Court documents for you. Another advantage is lawyers develop relationships with Judges over time and they come to appreciate how Judges want materials to be drafted.
Identifying your Rights
Many people have commented on the peculiarities of the English language used in Law. Legal jargon can be confusing, no question. For example, did you know that you could have sole custody of your child or children even if they live with their other parent 100% of the time? When people come in for a consultation, they do so because they feel like they do not know what their rights stemming from a separation are, and in most cases, they are correct. Family Law is complicated and cases can get drawn out for months.
Preserving your Time
Preparing for a Court case is a full-time job, so if you have an actual full time job, chances are you are not going to be properly prepared to develop and present your case. Time is money, as they say, so while using the services of a lawyer costs money, it may be cheaper in the long run to pay someone to handle your file, rather than having to miss work and cost yourself a portion of your pay cheque. Even worse, if you mishandle your case, you could cost yourself a chunk of what you are entitled to receive from your ex-spouse.
Those who are unprepared for Court, or who are unsuccessful at trial, often have to pay costs, either a portion or the entire amount, for the other side. If the four reasons that I have just talked about don’t strike a chord, here is the most important reason to hire a lawyer. Self-represented parties are not given any sympathy by Judges – they are held to the same standards as lawyers are within the four walls of the Court room. If you forget to serve or file something or if you litigate in an unreasonable fashion, it doesn’t matter if you’re not an L.L.B. or a J.D. or an M.L.A., you will still be out of luck when it comes to paying your ex’s costs.
Should you require more information and wish to schedule a consultation, please visit our website at www.separation.ca or contact any of our offices. Thank you.
For the Feldstein Family Law Group, I’m Andrew Feldstein.