I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard the words “Yeah, I want to settle this thing, but WITHOUT LAWYERS.”
There are many possible reasons for people to say this, but two stand out above the rest: 1) they are afraid lawyers cost too much, or 2) they don’t want to chance the other side discovering the full extent of their legal rights and options that could create a greater burden for them. While the second of these is certainly not the “high road” position, it is a common symptom of divorce and those faced with the stress of uncertainty. But, while we can’t change a person’s intent to deceive, we can certainly mitigate the harm that could result.
The root of the problem with the legal system is the lack of necessary information by those going through it. The fastest and most reliable way to get this information is by talking with a lawyer. Often it takes less than an hour to learn what you need to learn to assure yourself of your rights and what needs to be done. Sometimes, these initial consultations are offered for free, as I do with my clients. Even if you decide you do not need or want to retain a lawyer to represent you, the information you glean at the onset is invaluable and often essential to a obtaining a fair and equitable solution.
Failure to seek out this information from the start actually drives up the cost and often leads to mistakes that cannot be undone later on. These mistakes can be monetary only or they can result in devastating outcomes regarding the relationship with your children. The lack of necessary information drives up costs when people do not know what to expect, when they take untenable positions that have no chance of winning, or when they loose out on an issue they would have won if it had been timely raised. Some people resort to self-help books, which is a good place to start, but it is not enough and cannot take the place of sound legal advice from an expert. The law is complicated and gets more so each year. The rules intertwine and crossover into so many aspects of our lives that it requires constant vigilance to keep up and no book(s) can possibly anticipate all the possible scenarios.
Talking to a lawyer at the earliest possible stage in the matter is the single best thing one can do to keep the cost of the matter as small as possible, and to assure a fair and equitable result. In fact, each party having a goodlawyer to help them actually keeps costs down and gets the matter resolved faster. Whether or not you need or want a lawyer beyond the initial information gathering phase is certainly up to you. And while this choice is often dictated by realities of life beyond your control, being empowered with the essential understanding of the law as it applies to your situation, at the onset, is definitely within your control.
So, in answer to “The Question?” Absolutely, Yes.