April, 2002

I know that I have touched upon this issue in the past, however I am constantly reminded of it, and especially so in a case which was recently referred to my office. The issue – Does a person really need an attorney to represent them in a dissolution proceeding?

I can’t say it loudly or often enough, that when the custody of children is at issue, you definitely need an attorney. What you “save” in the beginning by not having an attorney will ultimately cost you in the end. And, the cost will not be negligible. Ultimately, it is actually less expensive to hire an attorney to represent you from the beginning.

The case currently on my mind involves a mother who is trying to regain custody of her two children. When she first filed for dissolution of her marriage, she had an attorney. She did not keep the attorney on the case because she felt she couldn’t afford him. She completed the case on her own. However, the language used in the Judgment was crucial and mistakes were made. Now, two years later, changes need to be made. I am convinced that what my client is having to pay me, post-judgement, to correct this mistake is far more in excess than what the original attorney would have charged to prepare the Judgment.

For example, and not related to the case I’ve mentioned, are even “small” things such as, three-day weekends, off-track time, the children’s schedules, conflicting vacations, transportation, etc. Not to mention “big” things such as the changing needs of the children and limiting the distance where people can live.

Keep in mind that we cannot predict the future. A family law attorney can help you prepare for contingencies that you may not have though about, or would even know to think about. Our children are important to us and because of that, we want to do what is best for them. That shouldn’t stop the dissolution your marriage. The children are an important part of the divorce and their future is ultimately at stake. Don’t mess it up!