Legal Help in Divorce Cases

Do I Need to Have an Attorney to Get a Divorce?

Although it is legal in many states to obtain a divorce without representation by counsel, it is always inadvisable, because of the complex issues involved.

If you have been married only a short time, have no children and little property, it may seem financially advantageous to "do it yourself". However, a good lawyer will always pay for him/herself. Timing can often be crucial in getting a divorce; an attorney can best advise you when it will make the most sense in terms of insurance and taxes.

A skilled attorney can help you avoid personal and/or property matters that may cost you money down the road, and will represent your best interests in resolving any financial complications that may arise. An attorney also can help avoid the possibility of one party claiming that s/he was taken advantage of because all facts were not disclosed.

The mediation process can also help disputing partices in a divorce, even when both parties are represented by attorneys.

Can My Soon-to-Be-Ex-Spouse and I Share an Attorney?

Where a couple thinks they agree on all issues, it may seem logical to save money and use one attorney to "handle paperwork". This almost uniformly is a very bad idea. Lawyers recognize the possibility of conflict of interest, in which it is impossible to represent both sides fairly. Most lawyers won't even entertain the idea of doing this.

Using separate lawyers does not have to lead to creating conflict where none existed; it may be invaluable, however, in making it clear that parties have not considered every potential issue, and have disregarded something that may come back to haunt them later.

What Do I Do if I Believe My Attorney is Not Adequately Representing My Interests?

You, as the client, have a nearly absolute right to discharge your current lawyer and hire another lawyer. You may do whether or not you have a reason anyone else would agree with, or even for no reason at all.

The major exception to your absolute right to bring in new counsel would be if you tried to do so just before, or during, a trial or hearing. In such circumstances courts tend to frown on substitutions because they recognize them as delaying tactics or gamesmanship. As it takes time for a new lawyer to get up to speed, and could seriously prejudice the other side and waste judicial resources, courts permit last minute substitutions only for extra-ordinary good reasons, such as a conflict of interest.

While you have the right to fire the old and hire a new lawyer, it does not mean that you do not have to pay the old lawyer for the work performed. And in some states, the former lawyer has an "attorney's lien" on the case files, and need not turn them over to you or the new lawyer until the bill is paid. However, even in such states, if you have a is a good reason for firing the old lawyer, courts may step in to protect your rights to proceed and order the files be transferred to the new lawyer.

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