Is Hiring a Family Law Attorney a Waste of Money?
Should You DIY in Family Court?
Between 80%-90% of individuals court represent themselves in family court in Phoenix. Sometimes this works out very well, and other times, when errors or omissions occur in paperwork, it can be disastrous. Hiring a family law attorney is not the right path for everyone, and clearly the majority decide to do without. If you decide to represent yourself, here are our tips for creating the best possible outcome for you and your family.
1. Do the Cost/Benefit Analysis
Say your ex wants to modify your child support order. Should you hire an attorney? Let’s examine the business case. If your ex is asking you to pay an additional $200 per month for your 14-year-old until she is 18, your “maximum exposure” (additional cost) is $9,600.00. Knowing that, you can determine how much you are willing to spend fighting the modification or how much to negotiation to do. You can design a budget to protect your financial interests. It would, of course, be inadvisable to spend $10,000 fighting that child support modification.
2. Take Advantage of Free Resources
Before you file anything, educate yourself about your local laws and procedures. Check out any local free resources geared toward education including seminars, webinars, articles, and/or free consultations with attorneys. Join us for a free upcoming webinar on child support, parenting time and legal decision making. There are also resources geared toward self-represented litigants like Access Legal, where you can create the professional quality documents you need by filling out easy, step-by-step forms. Access Legal provides the actual documents and resources you need when involved in a Phoenix family court case. Arizona has a specific set of laws that dictates the steps of your case, the documents you need and way those documents should look. Be wary of companies simply providing “forms” for all states. They are not likely to offer all of the resources you need in order to protect yourself.
3. Doesn’t Have to Be All or Nothing
Consider using an attorney on a limited scope basis. Just because you decide to represent yourself doesn’t mean that you can’t use an attorney for anything. Many attorneys are now offering “limited scope” or “unbundled” legal services. This means that you hire an attorney for pieces of your case, but not to do everything. This is an excellent option for those who have complicated issues but don’t have $20,000 or more to spend on an attorney. Consider doing the preliminary paperwork yourself, gathering documents and information and then hiring an attorney to represent you in court. By doing some of the work yourself you can cut down on the overall costs and still get many of the benefits of having an attorney involved. You can truly craft this option to your case and budget.
Make sure you find an experienced attorney (one with at least two years experience in YOUR area) and one who is familiar with practicing limited scope legal services. Inexperienced attorneys will not be able to equip you with the knowledge you need when they are not responsible for your case. Likewise, if an attorney is unfamiliar with limited scope legal services he or she may not offer the best resources or parameters for working together.
Many of the documents you need for your case can be found at Access Legal Docs, including a modification and response to a child support modification. Consider consulting with an attorney while you DIY. Call us with questions, we’ll walk you through it.