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Why do I need an attorney anyway?

Recently when wrapping up a strategy session with a gentleman who wanted to talk through his family law matter to decide whether to hire the firm to assist him, I encountered one of the more thought provoking questions I’ve come across all year: “Why do I need an attorney?”

Admittedly this question caught me a bit by surprise. Usually during strategy sessions people ask any number of questions related to both the legal and practical aspects of what their family is experiencing such as “how will my upcoming plans to do X impact my claims for primary custody” or “how is a Judge likely to consider Y when determining how everything gets divided up?”. “Why do I need an attorney” did not appear on my bingo card for questions I would be asked by potential clients, but I am glad it did as it provides an opportunity to explore why someone faced with a family law matter should seek representation.

I am by education and training an attorney and by calling a family law attorney. Perhaps you believe you should take what I am about to say with a grain of salt, and often when seeking advice or reading explanations you should. The following is my own personal (condensed) opinion on why you should hire counsel to represent you in your family law matters, particularly one of the many talented attorneys at The Manely Firm, P.C.

An attorney is a duty bound to represent your interests once you hire them. Because of this duty your attorney not only serves as an advocate, crafting legal arguments to advance your position, but as your trusted advisor. Family permeates nearly every facet of our lives, which means that family law is no different. What were once routine decisions made about your family become evidence, blown up to fit on a poster board to show the judge and, sometimes, blown way out of proportion. The intimate nature of family law often leads to every aspect of a case becoming “personal”. An attorney provides you with not only the experience to understand where the other side might be coming from regarding legal strategy but also with a touchstone, someone who’s duty it is to tell you whether something helps or hurts your stated goals and how you can work to ensure success legally but also practically during periods of transition and uncertainty. The attorneys at The Manely Firm execute strategically.  The law allows you to do certain things, acknowledging that there will be consequences for any choices made.  Our goal is to ensure you know not only what your options are but which options get you to your goal most effectively.

Having an attorney in your ring for negotiations allows you to have a clearer understanding of the implications of potential decisions and agreements, thanks to both the attorney’s legal education and their experiences from practicing; an attorney helps you ensure that any agreement you make is accurately reflected on paper to minimize the chance of unintended consequences. An attorney also provides you with the option of not having to settle; if the other side cannot be reasoned with.  An attorney will prepare your case and you for any necessary court appearances and will work tirelessly to ensure the presentation of your case is as strong as possible.

An attorney is an advocate but at the same time they are an interpreter and guide. There is a reason law school exists, and partly this is because the regular baseline education we receive does not prepare us for interaction with the judicial system. The law is steeped in technical procedure and terms of art, words that hold special meaning that are not so readily apparent. A lawyer’s legal education gives them the tools to determine what exactly is involved in your case, what needs to be done, and what it means in plain language. Attorneys should understand the rules of the court and the process of the law allowing them to move your case along towards resolution without risking getting the case dismissed for want of an essential pleading or missed deadline. Judges are in a courtroom to judge, not to advocate for either side as that is the job of the attorneys. Having an attorney allows you to pursue your case properly while also communicating your side of the story to a Judge in language that not only resonates with the Judge but gives them the building blocks to allow them to find in your favor.

When questioning whether you need an attorney, cost is no doubt a large factor in coming to your conclusion. There have been many an unrepresented litigant in court because they feel the cost of an attorney is not justified. At the end of the day in family law, priority controls. If your priority is your family and setting yourselves up for success in court and in the future beyond the courthouse steps, the cost incurred will be understood as money well spent. It is far easier, and often cheaper, to set a case up for success according to your goals with the benefit of having an attorney directly involved from the beginning than it is to show up after an adverse judgment has been entered and appeal.

The next time you are faced with a family law matter and wonder “do I really need an attorney” I hope the answer is “yes” and if your answer is yes, give The Manely Firm, P.C. a call to set a strategy session with one of our incredibly gifted and dedicated team to see how we can assist you.

With offices in AtlantaMariettaForsythSavannahLawrenceville, and Columbus, The Manely Firm is there wherever you are. If you’re seeking information for your next steps, give our team a call.

Felix Kloc