Sometimes prospective clients will ask me if they really need a lawyer. Hiring a divorce lawyer in New Jersey is expensive and in the age of Google I understand the desire for DIY. In this blog post I’m going to address some of my feelings on the “Rise of the Pro Se” litigant. These are just my opinions.
First, the simple truth is this: I would not do my job if I did not believe I was helping people. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t believe my job had a purpose and that we provide value to our clients.
That does not mean I am the right lawyer for everybody or that our team is the right fit for all potential clients. It also doesn’t mean that everybody contemplating a New Jersey Divorce requires their own independent counsel.
I personally believe, however, that getting the right lawyer for you is very important. Part of the reason why our firm’s divorce consults are so long is that both sides need to get to know one another and if they would be a good fit working together. Many divorces can be very emotional and there is a lot of teamwork between attorney and client.
Even though I am a lawyer, I have used other lawyers for relatively simple matters such as having my will drawn up and buying my home. I paid money to make sure I used the right professional, someone who was familiar with that area of the law–an area that I am not familiar with as I generally limit my practice to divorce and family law. In other words, I thought it a good investment even though I am a lawyer and could have likely muddled through that work without incident.
I know some people do so even without a law degree. There is no requirement that you hire a divorce lawyer in New Jersey. And even if you do there are no guaranteed results. But I know that like many things, unless you do this work you do not know what you do not know. What do I mean by that?
Well, for one thing, without discovery you can never be completely sure you are aware of all the assets of your marriage. That doesn’t mean the other party is intentionally hiding anything either. For instance: this morning I realized I had $90.00 in a checking account I thought I had long ago closed. I’m usually very on top of my finances but this one slipped past me until tax return time. Now imagine the same thing but it’s a $90,000 account. Not everybody is incredibly organized and over decades of life even large assets may go missing or unaccounted for. Without divorce something may be accidentally (or intentionally) slipped past you.
But it also means this: you may not know that you’re entitled to a portion of your spouse’s pension. That means that by hiring a divorce lawyer you may get thousands of dollars extra per month in retirement that you would have otherwise not thought about. Although sometimes hiring lawyers can seem to “complicate things,” the thoroughness of a “divorce audit” and being fully informed of your rights and responsibilities can lead to more money in your pocket.
And here’s another thing: if you retain a lawyer to draft your Marital Settlement Agreement then it will hopefully be clearly written and will contain all of the important terms needed to live out your post-marriage life. This could lead to less chance of litigation or issues in the future (post-divorce) that may need to be re-litigated. There is no guarantee these issues will not arise even with a lawyer (as divorce agreements can be tricky given that they must hold up for years or even decades), but the training and experience should minimize such issues.
Also, if one side has an attorney and the other doesn’t (or neither side has an attorney) it’s not only possible that you’ll misapply the law, it’s also likely that one of you will feel like you got taken advantage of. This may lead to an additional emotional cost for one or both parties in the years to come. Going through the divorce process can sometimes be painful (or even downright ugly), but sometimes it is necessary to move forward.
So, I guess it’s not surprising that I—a divorce lawyer–believe that divorce/family law lawyers are important. I am admittedly biased. But I have also seen too many bad agreements brought about by those operating without counsel.
I also know many people are struggling financially and that they don’t want to spend money on a lawyer. That’s definitely a societal problem and there may be services such as Legal Services available for those that are truly at or below the poverty line. For everyone else you may need to call around to find a lawyer that you can work with financially. It’s in a sense an investment you’ll need to consider or risk losing more money in the long run. If you spend $10,000 to receive an extra $100,000 in a divorce, for instance, was your lawyer really “a waste of money?”
And one more thing—-the procedural requirements of a New Jersey Divorce can be quite vigorous and time-consuming. Hiring a lawyer will help take some of this off your shoulders and provide you with extra time to focus on other important elements of your life. Court Rules are generally not relaxed just because someone does not have a lawyer.
If you’d like to see if our firm may be the right fit for your divorce and/or family law needs, then call us today at 908-237-3096 or use our website to self-schedule a divorce consult.