Child custody and divorce cases can be complicated legal matters. A question I hear frequently from potential clients is, “Should I hire an attorney?” The decision to hire an attorney is always up to the individual who is hiring. There are certainly a lot of factors to consider in that decision, two of which include the complexity of the case and if the other side has counsel. The American Bar Association recently conducted a study of Judges around the nation on their opinions as to individuals proceeding without counsel. Those statistics may give some indication on the need for counsel and the impact of not having counsel in a divorce or child custody case.
62% of the Judges interviewed viewed the outcomes for non-represented litigants as being worse and 37% of the Judges felt there was no impact. When asked about the range of problems pro per’ litigants had without counsel, the list included failure to present necessary evidence, procedural mistakes, failure to effectively examine witnesses or make proper objections and poor arguments. ABA Coalition of Justice, Report on the Survey of Judges on the Impact of Economic Downturn on Representation in the Courts.
While finances are tight for most families, if the decision is made to hire an attorney, there may be options to help afford the cost of representation. This can include looking for an attorney who provides payment plans or doing some of the work yourself to reduce your fees. As the survey indicates, representation in court can make a difference. If you cannot afford an attorney for the entire case, you may wish to only hire an attorney to represent you for court appearances. This option should be discussed beforehand with counsel to ensure your best options as there are timelines to provide evidence, witnesses and documents to the other side and Court. Those timelines, if missed, can result in evidence and witnesses being excluded. In addition, if an individual drafts their own paperwork, they must be sure to properly plead all items as this can result in loss of defenses or arguments if not properly pled.
Before hiring any attorney, one should take steps to insure that it is the right fit. The American Bar Association provides information on a Hiring an Attorney which may be helpful to review. Not every individual needs, requires or wants an attorney. Before making the decision to hire or not hire, it is vital to educate yourself on the pros, cons, and what to look for in counsel.
This article is not meant to be all-inclusive or a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your own jurisdiction. If you are involved in a legal matter and have questions, you should contact a competent attorney in your own jurisdiction.
K. Beth Luna, Esq. is licensed in Tennessee, Florida and Nevada. The information provided is based upon Nevada law only. If you are looking for information for another jurisdiction, please contact an attorney in that area. The Luna Law Firm handles annulment matters on a regular basis in the Reno, Carson, Nevada area. We also represent individuals in Yerington, Minden, Fernley and Fallon, Nevada.
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