When divorce becomes a reality in people’s lives, one of the first questions they tend to ask themselves is, “Do I need a divorce or family law attorney?” Here, we’ll address that question by providing some information on what your options are, and how to go about making a choice that you won’t regret.
Can I represent myself in a divorce?
Yes, you can. But the question shouldn’t be “can I?”, but rather, “should I?” In the same way that you technically can perform surgery on yourself, we can all safely agree that you shouldn’t. Because that kind of thing is best left to people who have the experience, knowledge and skill to ensure that you come out safely on the other end. Sure, there are YouTube videos and internet articles about how surgery is done, but nobody in their right mind would think they can do surgery by reading about it on the internet.
The same applies to practicing divorce law. You can represent yourself in divorce court. You can believe that you can sidestep years of legal training and thousands of hours of practicing law. Before you do that, think carefully. Ask yourself if you’re willing to risk years of possible consequences because you want to play lawyer. Figure out whether you can live with paying an attorney two or three times what they would have originally charged you to handle your divorce properly, to try to go back and correct mistakes that you may have made trying to play lawyer.
If you’re the person that would read about doing surgery on the internet and then proceed to remove a gall bladder, by all means handle your own divorce. If you’re not quite that adventurous, you should turn to someone with expertise in Michigan divorce and family law. Navigating the family courts and the divorce process on your own, while possible, doesn’t come without risks, difficulty and the possibility of many errors that may cost you a lot later on.
Experience and Expertise Matter
Beginning the divorce process, and even into court, lacking years of knowledge, training and experience could cause significant delays, often resulting in short and long-term negative outcomes. Smart doctors hire other doctors when they have a medical problem. Smart attorneys hire other expert divorce attorneys to handle their own family law cases. Our divorce lawyers have represented many doctors, lawyers, professors, accountants, blue collar employees, corporate executives, trades people and others in the courts in Ingham, Eaton, Clinton, Jackson, Ionia and Gratiot Counties. We recommend that you do likewise. It is not wise to gamble with your future.
Another reason people give for not wanting to have a divorce attorney is that they want an amicable divorce. There is a notion that some people seem to have, that attorneys are only for contentious divorces. This is absolutely untrue. Having an attorney by your side does not mean your divorce will have to be a battle. It simply means that you are protecting your own long-term interests. Especially when it comes to issues like asset division and child custody when both parties are willing, our family law attorneys can work to achieve a peaceful divorce without waging war.
Remember, as experienced custody and divorce attorneys, we work for you. We may recommend fighting for everything you can get on certain issues, but we cannot make these arguments without your consent. As the client, you dictate how aggressive you want us to be. We provide the legal advice and guidance and we make suggestions for what we think will be in your best interests. But in the end, you make the final decisions.
What is the real cost?
A major reason that people often cite for not hiring an attorney is cost. Attorneys, especially good ones, are not cheap. When you are expecting to be a single parent functioning on one income in the near future, it’s just one more expense you don’t want to have, right? Wrong. Not so fast.
Not having an attorney can often cost you more money in the long run. By not getting the best possible spousal support agreement or child support agreement, you could be losing money down the road. Additionally, getting stuck with an ex’s debt, or having less than your share of the assets can have you paying for not hiring an attorney for years to come. All of which could be avoided, if you invested in experienced legal representation at the beginning. Our family law lawyers have handled hundreds of divorce and custody cases all over Mid Michigan.
There are many ways in which you can save money or reduce your overall costs while still hiring a top-notch family law attorney to represent you. If finances are a big concern, talk to us about your concerns.
Using an Online Document Company
Recently, there have been companies offering legal documents online to help people represent themselves in a divorce. In addition to the pitfalls discussed above regarding representing oneself in a Michigan divorce, online documents have their own share of problems.
First, these documents usually come from large companies that offer “one-size-fits-all” forms for people all across the United States. There is a good likelihood that these documents may not be in compliance with Michigan divorce law, or that they are outdated, as Michigan family law does change often.
Also, as any good divorce lawyer knows, there is much more to a divorce than just the initial filing. Many divorces involve the arguing of motions in court or using some type of facilitated mediation. People who use online document companies alone will not have legal representation at these very important events.
Going to court or a mediation meeting without an attorney can be short sighted and short changed. This is particularly true if the other spouse has a divorce lawyer. Simply put, document services are no substitute for a real live lawyer. Let’s face it. Buying a form online prepared by a person unknown to you, is risky business akin to gambling with your future.
Talking to a Lawyer Once
A marriage can be on the rocks for a long time before the actual divorce takes place. Sometimes, in order to prove to their spouse how serious they are about calling it quits, a spouse may have an initial appointment with a Michigan divorce lawyer. This allows them to tell their spouse that they have already seen a divorce attorney, which can be an incentive for getting their spouse to change their ways.
Many times during an initial consultation, an attorney will tell a potential client about the divorce process. They may provide a general overview of what the client can expect during the divorce. However, because the attorney has not had time to review the specific details, they realistically cannot know what strategies they might use in the case, or what the likely outcome will be without much more detailed information.
But some people think that a short consultation with an attorney has armed them with enough information to be able to represent themselves in a divorce. Unfortunately, that is just not true. That’s just a trap for foolish people. Our family law attorneys have many years of training, education and experience representing clients in Michigan divorce and custody cases. There are also many aspects to consider, like parenting time, visitation rights, and sometimes even the issue of paternity that can complicate a divorce. Property division, special court orders that divide pension and retirement plans, appraising marital assets, finding assets and talking about tax consequences of divorce are all part of the skills that come with decades of experience practicing family law in and around Lansing.
In addition, we continue to participate in seminars that keep us updated on the changes in Michigan law so that our information is always current, and our understanding of the law is never outdated.
Hiring a Divorce Attorney
Quite simply, this is the only option we recommend to those who are considering a divorce. Having a divorce attorney will ensure that your divorce begins on the right foot from the very beginning. Making sure that you choose a skilled, up-to-date, and experienced attorney is very important. So how do you go about choosing the right attorney for you?
There are a number of key features and important factors to keep in mind when choosing an attorney to represent you during your divorce. Here are the most important ones you will need to consider before making your selection:
Any divorce lawyer you consider should have substantial experience in handling Mid-Michigan divorce cases. An experienced divorce attorney will know the the various judges in the mid-Michigan family courts along with their preferences and particular procedures. .
Additionally, you should select a lawyer who practices primarily in the field of divorce law. Often people will hire a lawyer who specializes in some other area thinking that any lawyer will do. Worse yet is the lawyer that claims to be an “expert” in all areas of the law, which is just not possible.
Divorce law is a very specialized field that requires particular skills and experience in order to increase the likelihood of reaching a successful conclusion. Knowing the law is important. Knowing the way the judge likes to run their courtroom is just as important. Understanding the Friend of the Court system in each county is also critical.
Past Client Testimonials:
Nothing tells the truth about a business or a professional more that the clients they’ve worked with in the past. While divorce is never an enjoyable process, some divorce lawyers have more satisfied clients than others. If you don’t know someone who has been a client of the particular lawyer you are considering, you should consider finding out whether they have any client testimonials that describe what it was like for other people who hired them.
Our firm is proud of having been selected by other attorneys to represent them in their divorce cases, which is a great way to know that your peers see you as capable and accomplished in your field. In addition, we have represented people from all walks of life, including physicians, police officers, prison guards, teachers and professors, government employees, factory workers, housewives and mothers, and students. We receive family law referral clients from a large number of other attorneys throughout Michigan and around the country.
For the most part, when a client becomes dissatisfied with their attorney, it has a lot to do with that attorney’s availability and accessibility. In other words, a client who can never get through to their attorney, and doesn’t have their calls returned in a timely fashion, tends to feel neglected. Our lawyers respond to client inquiries not more than 24 hours later in most circumstances. You will find us to be very accessible and understanding to your needs. We also place a very high priority on client confidentiality.
You should always ask a potential divorce lawyer to describe their office policy in this area, as well as evaluating their general accessibility based on what former clients have to say.
It is vitally important that you have an open and honest conversation with any divorce attorney about fees and what you can expect right from the start. Typically, an experienced mid-Michigan divorce lawyer will require a substantial retainer fee up front, against which that attorney’s hourly rate and expenses will be charged.
Some items you need to find out up front include: what that lawyer’s hourly rate is, what the upfront retainer will be, whether any portion of the retainer is refundable if it is not used up, and how often you can expect to receive invoices that detail the hourly charges and expenses. You also will want to know how detailed and clear the invoices will be. Once again, this is an area where you can get excellent information from those people who have been clients of that Eaton County or Ingham County or Clinton County family law attorney.
While all the above issues are important, there is one final question you should always ask yourself before hiring an attorney to handle your divorce. Are you comfortable with that lawyer and are you confident in his or her abilities? If the answer is anything other than a resounding “yes,” then you should keep looking. Your case is too important to entrust to someone who does not inspire your confidence.
The Right Attorney For You
Good divorce lawyers are up-to-date on Michigan law and have years of experience delivering favorable results to clients. They will be by the side of the client in all court hearings, and during all facilitated mediation. Aggressive lawyers know what to fight for, and how to get it. If you are considering a divorce, and don’t know where to turn for quality legal representation and top-of-the-line counsel for every aspect of your divorce, contact us today at 517-886-1000. We can help you every step of the way. We are always available for crisis intervention and emergencies.
We have delivered proven results to our clients in family courts throughout Mid-Michigan including in Lansing, Charlotte, St. Johns, Ionia, Jackson, and all families from Ingham County, Eaton County, Clinton County and beyond.
If you are thinking of filing for divorce, contact the premier Michigan divorce lawyers at Kronzek & Cronkright, PLLC at 1 517 886-1000. At the Kronzek Firm, we can arrange for a confidential meeting in our Lansing office. Our attorneys can also arrange emergency meetings on short notice for crisis situations.