During these difficult economic times, many people who are in the process of initiating a divorce or responding to one consider ways to cut their costs. The most common way that people try to decrease the expense associated with a Florida divorce is to proceed without an attorney. Some people use “paralegals” or typing services to assist them in handling their divorce without the benefit of legal counsel or legal representation in court. Given the important issues in most Florida divorce cases, this is never advisable except under rare, limited circumstances.
If you have been married for only a brief period less than a year and do not have children or any significant debts or assets together, then you may not need an attorney. Even in this situation, you are best off consulting with an experienced Florida family law attorney just to be cautious. Many divorce attorneys in West Palm Beach and throughout the surrounding areas of Florida offer a free consultation that provides an opportunity to assess your situation and determine if you need legal representation. Some family law firms in Florida even offer affordable representation for simple, uncontested divorces.
When you have issues like child custody and visitation (referred to as Parental Responsibility and Time-Sharing in Florida), alimony, or property and debt division issues, it is crucial that you are represented by an experienced West Palm Beach divorce attorney. Many self-represented people develop a false sense of security by working with so-called “paralegals” or typing services. In reality, the owners of such businesses generally have no legal training and are not permitted to provide legal advice or perform legal services. This means that you really are on your own when you prepare your paperwork for court, develop appropriate strategies for litigation and make court appearances in your Florida divorce case.
The disadvantages you face when proceeding without a knowledgeable Florida divorce lawyer can hardly be overstated. The substantive law involved in determining a permanent alimony order is so complex that many times an experienced family law attorney cannot be certain how the judge will weigh the list of factors that must be considered when making a permanent alimony award. When a judge must decide on a Parenting Plan, including time-sharing arrangements, the court must also consider a long list of factors that are relevant to the best interest of the child. If you do not have legal representation, it is difficult to present a compelling case for permanent alimony or the Parenting Plan that you consider best for your child. Effective presentations on these issues involve strategic planning, legal research, effective discovery, persuasive legal documents and a compelling courtroom presentation, which only an experienced Florida divorce attorney can provide.
The issue of obtaining a favorable division of property and debts are also riddled with challenges when one proceeds without a West Palm Beach divorce attorney. Some assets may require an expert to value like a business or stock options while other assets may have a mix of marital property and separate property interests so that it is necessary to determine the contributions of each type and calculate the appreciation in value from each of these. The only way to protect one’s right to his or her share in a spouse’s retirement plan may involve preparation of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), which is a complex document where a mistake are easy to make and can have devastating consequences.
Aside from all of these more complex issues, the process of negotiating in a vacuum without an awareness of your rights or the likely scope of outcomes if a judge rules on an issue can prevent mutually amicable solutions. Many times the easiest way to reach a divorce settlement is to have each side guided by Florida divorce attorneys who can advise their clients regarding positions that a court will consider unreasonable. If your spouse has a divorce lawyer, you are particularly vulnerable to being taken advantage of during a Florida divorce if you do not have legal counsel on your side.
If you are thinking about divorce or have been served with divorce paperwork, you should retain a knowledgeable and skilled West Palm Beach divorce attorney who will guide you through the divorce process. No matter where you are located, West Palm Beach family law attorney James S. Cunha and his legal team are just a phone call away.