CONSIDERATIONS FOR WHETHER OR NOT TO USE A FLORIDA DIVORCE LAWYER
No offense but you are not a lawyer. There may be many things that you simply don't know or didn't think of. Sometimes it's impossible to make a good deal if you don't know all of your rights. (and responsibilities)
Wrong language in a document can cause an undesired result (you may think you know how to state what you want legally, but you may not)
It is easier and less aggravating and time consuming to use a lawyer, and it may save you money in the long run
Mistakes can be far costlier than the cost of a lawyer (receiving too little or paying too much alimony and/or child support can be costly)
If you take forms off of the web to do your own divorce, you are running the risk that the forms are outdated, just plain wrong, or do not properly address your particular circumstance.
You may save a great deal of time if a lawyer handles your matter
You may save the aggravation of doing things incorrectly and having to learn about your mistake, and having to do it over again (you can't learn quickly what it took a lawyer years to learn)
You may get benefits that you were unaware of
You may not be thinking of all of the issues that need to be dealt with
You may end up giving up more than you need to
Avoiding the uncertainty of doing it yourself
Not knowing which documents the Court requires
Not knowing Court procedure or rules
Not knowing how to respond if the Judge has issues with your case
You can have a great case but if you don't know the rules of evidence you may not be allowed to present your case (or be able to stop the other side from presenting inadmissible evidence)
Not understanding that the Judge is not your advocate and won't save you from your lack of knowledge
Not realizing that you will be held to the same standard as a lawyer in Court
Not being aware of Court deadlines
Not knowing how to prepare Court pleadings
Not knowing when is the appropriate time to go to mediation, and the steps that you must take to be prepared for mediation (the mediator is neutral and is not your advocate and is not there to fight for you)
Not knowing what Court documents you must provide your adversary and vice versa
Not knowing how to obtain certain documents you need from your adversary (or other individuals or companies)
Not knowing how to subpoena witnesses to Court
Not knowing the steps to take to put you in a position to appeal the Judge's decision if needed
Not knowing how to appeal an adverse decision
Not knowing how to schedule a hearing or have your spouse served
Not knowing the law that pertains to your case
Not knowing how to do legal research
Not knowing how visitation (timesharing), alimony and division of property and debt is handled, or how child support is calculated
Not knowing how to transfer real estate (house etc.)
Not knowing what to do if adversary doesn't do what rules require or the Court orders
Not knowing how to draw up a Court order or judgment (which judges rarely do themselves)
Not having someone knowledgeable about Florida divorce law and procedure to answer your questions
At a minimum you should sit down with a Florida divorce lawyer to learn your rights.If you are going to try and represent yourself you don't want to give up rights that you don't have to, either rights that you didn't know existed, or rights that you didn't think you were entitled to. And a lawyer may be able to point out issues that you didn't think about. (issues that might be expensive to deal with later on if you didn't include them in your original divorce paperwork)
Why should I spend my hard earned money on a Florida divorce lawyer? It's a good question. After all, there are paralegals and mediators who offer services for the same or less money than a lawyer would charge. It must be understood that paralegals cannot practice law or give you legal advice and they cannot go to Court with you. (although if they work under the supervision of a member of the Florida Bar they can do delegated legal work) Florida divorce mediators may be able to help you reach an agreement but they cannot be an advocate for both parties. If you have anything at all at stake, why not hear what your rights and responsibilities are from someone who is on your side, and only your side? You may not even realize you're getting a bad deal if you don't know your rights and responsibilities. The last thing that you want to do is give up legal rights, or money or property that you didn't even realize that you were entitled to, because no one told you about your rights.
Mediators who don't represent either party are not necessarily going to suggest that you hang in there and fight for everything that you are entitled to. The price of a Florida divorce lawyer can be worth it if you obtain the proper amount of child support, alimony, or property, instead of some compromise or erroneous amount. No one should go deeply into debt to borrow money for a Florida divorce lawyer; but the money spent can be a good investment.
A Florida divorce is a very important event for you and your family. It is usually not the time to try to find a bargain or try to practice law on your own unless you have legal training. Sorry, reading for a few minutes on the internet about Florida divorce law doesn't give you the legal knowledge that a lawyer has. Sometimes, if one party's financial situation is much better than the other's, then that party may have to pay the fees for both lawyers.
Sometimes the fact that one party has a Florida divorce attorney is a good reason for the other party to settle, because they know that their adversary is not going to give up easily. Lawyers may not be very concerned about an adversary who has no lawyer.
Another problem when representing yourself may occur where you fail to use the proper language in an agreement that you draw up. Parts of the agreement may end up unenforceable or cause an unintended result. You can also run into difficulty even where you feel that you have a clear cut case with regard to alimony, or timesharing with the minor children for example. The rules of evidence and procedure are often complicated. And if you do not know them, you may not be successful on a particular claim no matter how valid that claim is. Judges cannot relax the rules of evidence simply because you are not an attorney. You will be held to the same standards as a practicing lawyer in court if you try to represent yourself.
In conclusion, there are many reasonably priced Florida divorce attorneys who will work hard on your case. If you can reach an agreement with your spouse, the matter need not be expensive. The more issues you can agree upon with your spouse, the less work there is for the attorney to do. Getting a divorce and all the rights that you are entitled to is often not a matter of simply filling out some forms. Trying to deal on your own with the divorce system without legal training can be difficult, frustrating, and possible costly in the long run. Legal forms may not be able to cover your individual situation properly and you probably can't rely on your spouse's attorney to properly educate you about what your rights are.
At an absolute minimum you should consult with a Florida divorce lawyer to find out what your rights and responsibilities are, and have them look at any agreement that you are thinking about signing. You may have to live for a long time with the results of your decision. You don't want to find out next year that you made a poor deal that you are stuck with. Also, while it may be easier and less unpleasant to give up and let your spouse have their own way, you and your family may be entitled to certain benefits that you should not give up unless absolutely necessary. Sometimes waiting to take action can help but sometimes you just have to take the bull by the horns and defend yourself.
It is often wise to get an estimate from the attorney as what the total fee might be from beginning to end so that you can plan. Admittedly it is difficult to know in advance exactly what the case will cost as you don't know whether you will be able to settle the matter quickly or will have to have a knock down drag out battle. But an experienced attorney should be able to give you some kind of intelligent answer though as to roughly what the case will cost. You will then be able to plan your budget and not have to constantly worry that the case is a bottomless money pit. You should also indicate to the lawyer that you want to be made aware when your outstanding bill exceeds a certain amount, so that you can decide how to proceed.
Few Florida divorce lawyers can give you $2500 worth of services for $1000, but if the lawyer knows your budget he or she can concentrate on the most important issues and not waste time and money on petty matters. While there's no guarantee that a lawyer can get benefits for your that you couldn't get yourself, it often occurs.