You are not required to retain an attorney and have the right to represent yourself during your divorce proceedings. However, it is in your best interest that you retain a reliable attorney. Even if you and your soon-to-be-ex partner plan to file uncontested, you should have an attorney review the terms of your agreement and ensure that the settlement is fair to you.
5 Reasons You Need a Divorce Attorney
In family law cases, some people decide to represent themselves and proceed without an attorney; this is known as self-representation or proceeding pro se (which means “on behalf of oneself”). If you do proceed “pro se,” you will still be required to meet all the court deadlines, properly file and complete all the necessary paperwork, clearly communicate in court, and adhere to courtroom etiquette and protocol.
In addition to having help with all the aforementioned legal tasks, you should also retain a divorce attorney because:
- They can offer you objective advice. Your emotions may be running high, which can impact your decision-making abilities or process. While they have your best interest in mind, your attorney can offer a more neutral opinion.
- They have litigation and negotiation experience. If you represent yourself, you should have strong written and verbal communication skills, because you will need to present strong arguments and clearly share your story in court. Attorneys have training and experience negotiating with opposing counsel and litigating within the court.
- They have connections to experts you may need, such as a forensic accountant, appraiser, or mental health expert. During your divorce proceedings, you will need to collect evidence to substantiate your claims, and evidence can include testimony from an expert witness.
- They may be familiar with certain judges and the opposing counsel (if they are local). Because of their working relationship and experience, your attorney may be able to negotiate outside of court. If the case goes to court, they may also better understand how the opposing counsel and judge typically operate, which can help in developing your case strategy.
- They can save you time, money, and stress. If you proceed pro se, you will need to study and learn a lot of information concerning the required paperwork, courtroom procedures, etc., and you should be able to devote some time to handle the legalities. To avoid misfiling paperwork, improperly completing forms, and adding more stress to the situation, you can trust an attorney to advise you and manage the case.
Questions to Ask a Divorce Attorney
When you are going through a divorce, choosing the right attorney is one of the most important decisions you will make. During your case consultation, you should ask questions to make sure you retain an attorney (and firm) that can handle your divorce case and that you would want to work with. Here are 5 questions you should ask your potential divorce attorney during your initial meeting.
- Have you handled divorce cases like mine before? This question is especially important if you are involved in a high asset divorce, high net worth divorce, military divorce, and/or a divorce with any special circumstances or high conflict. You want to retain someone you can trust has the knowledge and experience in helping clients successfully navigate these cases.
- What would your strategy be for my case? You can learn whether the attorney believes they work with you to settle out of court or believes your case will go to trial. You can also determine how well they listened to your desired outcomes and goals based on their preliminary plan. If you mentioned wanting sole custody or to protect your home and retirement accounts, did they mention strategies concerning those goals?
- How long do you take to return emails or phone calls? This question can begin a dialogue about the attorney’s communication practices and policies, and their answer can give you an idea of how attentive and communicative they are. If you want to remain up to date on case details, you may also ask how often they plan to update you concerning the case.
- Will anyone else on your team be working on my case, and if so, can I meet them? If your case is complicated or the attorney has a firm that takes a team-based approach to cases, multiple people may be working on your case, and you should know who will be with you throughout the divorce process.
- What is your retainer fee and hourly billing rate? During your initial meeting, the attorney will likely mention their fees and rates, but you may want to ask this sooner rather than later to ensure you can afford their services. Most attorneys bill clients by the hour, but in some instances, they may offer flat-rate (or fixed) fee options depending on your specific needs.
Get Legal Help Today
Our attorneys have over 100 years of combined legal experience. If you are getting divorced or have been served divorce papers, our attorneys can help you successfully navigate your divorce case and alleviate some of your stress by knowing you have an experienced team on your side. We handle uncontested and contested divorces and related matters, including:
- Child custody and visitation
- Child support
- The division of assets and debts
- Modifying your court orders
- Domestic violence
Schedule your free, initial consultation today by calling (203) 583-8299 or contacting us online. You don’t have to face this alone; we are here to help.