Do I need an attorney?

I often am asked, ‘Do I Need an Attorney to get a divorce?’ The short answer is NO, but the better answer is you SHOULD hire an attorney. While I fully understand wanting to save yourself the expense of paying for an attorney, I’ve been through a divorce and even though this is what I do for a living, I hired an attorney to represent me. There is a saying that when an attorney represents themselves they have a fool for a client. This is because divorces and custody battles are emotional, and, at a minimum, you should hire an attorney to communicate with the other side to take emotion out of the process.

Additionally, it is important that you have someone that knows the law helping you navigate the legal system. The Court is not able to explain the law to you because the judge is playing a neutral role in the process and not permitted to give legal advice to either party. The court’s staff, the clerks, and the law library staff are not lawyers and are not permitted to practice law without a license so they cannot help you with the law either. So you will be required to know a vast amount of law during the process like:

1. What is proper service of process and when is it required?
2. How do you get a hearing set?
3. What evidence is permitted and what evidence is excluded during a hearing?
4. How do you get a document authenticated and entered into evidence?
5. How do you obtain documents from the other party legally?
6. If you record someone is it admissible or is it in violation of criminal law for which you may go to jail?
7. What evidence does the Texas Family Code permit the court to consider?”

Courts can only make decisions based on evidence that is properly obtained, authenticated, and permitted by law. Often when someone represents themselves, they think if it is in a text, email, picture, or writing that it is “evidence” and will be considered by the Court. This is NOT true. The evidence must be authenticated, relevant to an issue that will be decided, not excluded by the hearsay rules, etc. A lot of thought has to go into each and every piece of evidence and item of testimony to make sure that the Court will even hear or consider it.

You have probably heard that you should not make any important decisions when grieving a death or going through a divorce. This is because both of these situations involve a wide range of emotions. Making decisions that are clouded by emotion results in regret. Divorce is one of the most difficult situations you will ever go through. While grieving the failure of the marriage, you may be experiencing a wide range of emotions like anger, hurt, depression, sorrow, loneliness, and fear. These emotions are normal, but they make it difficult to make good decisions.

Having an experienced divorce attorney by your side to remove emotion from the decision-making process and help you to see the impact of different options is crucial. Unfortunately, friends and family are not able to provide this service because they are too close to the situation. While they mean well, friends and family are often experiencing some of the same emotions because they are watching you go through such a difficult time. Also, their own experiences with the legal system may have been determined by facts that were specific to their case, and they may not realize why a certain result occurred in their case or someone else’s case.