Many people hope that they will be able to navigate their own divorce without the help of an attorney. Images of looming costs and infinite billable hours keep many people from seeking help throughout their divorce. Generally speaking, this is a bad idea. What follows is a list of reasons you should consider consulting an attorney during your divorce.
- Know your rights. Rights do not enforce themselves. Rights depend on the people they are designed to protect asking that they are enforced. When you are married, you and your spouse both enjoy rights over each other; the same continues to be true as you divorce. Without an understanding of what your rights are in the divorce process, you cannot negotiate as effectively with your spouse or your spouse’s counsel.
- Often, the consultation is free. Some lawyers charge a fee for divorce consultations; others do not. Calling a law office and inquiring into their consultation policy is free to you if you have access to a phone. Find someone who will give you a free consultation, and go and have it. You will get a sense of the landscape of your case from this conversation. You will also get a sense of the real (not imagined) cost of legal services. From this new viewpoint, you can make an educated decision about whether hiring an attorney makes sense for you.
- Not all legal services are the same. Many attorneys offer Limited Assistance Representation and Legal Coaching options in addition to the traditional billable hour. Perhaps you cannot afford a large retainer, but really need help understanding court procedure in preparation for an upcoming hearing. Or perhaps you have a summons in your hand, but you don’t know what to do next. A lawyer may be able to help you identify, and execute, the next step.
- Not all payment types are the same. Did you know that some lawyers accept credit and debit cards, online payments, and can work with you on a payment plan or put money towards a retainer on layaway? These can be tremendously helpful tools for both the client and the attorney, easing the transaction, and relationship, for both parties. You won’t know if an attorney can work with your financial parameters until you ask.
- It bears repeating: know your rights. No matter what the situation is, your legal problem impacts your life. Know that you are in the right ballpark with what you are asking for, and how and where you ask. Determine what you can do in your own favor. Get an understanding of how you can reach your goals. The best way to do those things is to consult a qualified attorney. Put in the time to buy yourself some peace of mind. You will not regret it.
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About the Author: Elizabeth Dann, Esq. is a family law attorney practicing in Natick, Massachusetts. She is a divorced, single mother of three children who loves soy cappuccinos, plant-based food, and karaoke.