This may sound unexpected coming from a lawyer, but in many cases no, you don’t need a family lawyer to run your family law case.
If you are quite savvy you may well be able to ‘do it yourself’ and run your own family law matter. There are more and more people self-representing in the family law courts. There are resources online which can help you in preparing your case and running it through the family law court system.
What role do family lawyers play, then? In short, while it is possible, self-representation is not for everyone. Not everyone is able to navigate the maze of the family law system, and prepare the reams of paperwork necessary and make the needed court appearances.
Even if you are savvy enough to do your family law matter without a lawyer, however, there are some common sense reasons why it may make sense to still hire a lawyer to handle it for you.
Hiring a family lawyer may end up saving you money
Not hiring a family lawyer can be a false economy. Often hiring a family lawyer will have a net result of not costing you anything – and a good one could end up paying for themselves many times over.
Think about it this way. You and your ex-partner are disputing what may be a significant pool of assets. On your own you might settle for a 50/50 split, just to be done with the matter.
Let’s say you get a good family lawyer, however. If they believe you are entitled to more like a 60/40 split in your favour, for example, and are willing to fight for this on your behalf and end up obtaining this for you, you would end up with significantly more, and could more than pay for your legal fees.
A good family lawyer knows what you may be entitled to. People who go it on their own can end up settling for much less than they should, simply in an effort to ‘make it all go away’.
Family lawyers can take the stress out of it all
More importantly, however, going through a breakup is one of the most stressful things that can happen in life. Often having to navigate the court system and figure out how to draft lengthy affidavits and other court documents is the last thing that you want to be doing. Being in an adversarial position to your ex-partner can be incredibly stressful.
A good family lawyer will take the court problems on for you so you don’t have deal with them day in, day out. Something has come up? You can refer it off to your lawyer.
This may be especially vital if you are dealing with an abusive ex-partner. Your family lawyer effectively acts as a shield for you, so all correspondence, phone calls, and court documents go to your lawyer. All negotiations are done by your lawyer on your behalf. This can be an incalculable help for your emotional well-being in assisting you to move on with your life.
Family lawyers know what to ask for
Family lawyers do this for a living. They know what types of outcomes are to be expected. As mentioned earlier, a good lawyer will be able to see what factors might weigh things in your favour. They will consider your earning capacity, your future needs, and many other factors – and will know how this all can impact on the final settlement.
A lawyer also knows when to involve other professionals, such as accountants – for instance, you might have unexpected capital gains tax implications which may affect your settlement – if you represented yourself and missed a major tax issue it could end up costing you thousands of dollars in the long run.
This type of knowledge only comes with experience.
Family lawyers can facilitate settlements
A good family lawyer will be seeking ways to settle your matter in a way favourable to yourself. They will be able to speak ‘lawyer to lawyer’ (assuming the other side has a lawyer) without the emotion that you and your ex-partner might have if you were trying to reach a resolution directly.
This can sometimes greatly assist in achieving a resolution which might not be possible if you were having to deal directly with your ex-partner, with all the emotion this might entail.
Especially when children are involved your ex-partner may not be able to rationally think through your proposals. They may be struggling to come to terms with what has happened and the new realities. Often lawyers can assist by removing the emotion and help the parties think through their options, achieving resolution faster and more amicably.
You certainly can act for yourself in a family law matter – you may not need a family lawyer. As mentioned above, more and more people are running their own matters these days, and there are more and more resources available to assist you in this.
Before doing so, however, consider the points raised above. There can often be better, faster, more economical, and lower stress outcomes by leaving it to a lawyer to sort out for you.