Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQ”)
on Legal Help in Divorce Cases
Local Attorney Offers Answers on Legal Help in Divorce Cases
Q: Do I Need to Have an Attorney to Get a Divorce?
A: Although it is legal in many states to get a divorce without representation by counsel, doing so is always inadvisable because of the complex issues involved. If you were in a marriage of only a short amount of time, with no children and little property involved, it may seem financially advisable to handle a divorce yourself. But, good lawyers will always pay for themselves. Timing can often be crucial in getting a divorce, and an attorney can best tell you when it will make the most sense for insurance and taxes.
A skilled attorney can help you avoid personal and/or property disputes 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 negotiate settlements and avoid the possibility of a party claiming they were taken advantage of because you did not disclose all the facts.
Q: Can My Soon-to-Be Ex-Spouse and I Share an Attorney?
A: When a couple thinks they agree on all issues, it may seem logical to save money and use one attorney to “handle paperwork.” This is almost always a very bad idea. Lawyers recognize the possibility of conflict of interest in trying to represent both sides. Most lawyers will not entertain the idea of doing this. Using separate lawyers does not have to lead to creating conflict where none existed. But, separate lawyers may prove invaluable when you have not considered every possible issue, or if you looked over something that may come back to haunt you later.
Q: What Do I Do if I Believe My Attorney is Not Adequately Representing My Interests?
A: You, as the client, have an absolute right to discharge your current lawyer and hire another. 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 prejudice the other side and waste judicial resources, courts permit such late substitutions only for extraordinary 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. 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.