The decision to represent yourself in a Texas family law case will probably be the most impactful, but she will make for the entirety of your case. Well, nobody knows exactly how your case will turn out. I can tell you with some degree of confidence that choosing to represent yourself in a family law case has some advantages but many disadvantages. Whether or not you should represent yourself in a family law case depends upon many factors. I want to discuss the factors you should consider before representing yourself in a divorce or child custody case. Once we have gone through those factors, we can talk about some of the potential hurdles or problems that you may encounter in not having an attorney available throughout the entirety of your family law case.
Factors to consider when determining whether to hire a family law attorney
As I just mentioned, there is no requirement in the Texas family code or Texas civil cases in general for you to be represented by an attorney. While it is smart to consider all of your options, your case may be one where there is no specific need to hire a lawyer. With that said, however, you may determine that your circumstances put you in a position where the risk is too much or too great for you to move forward without an attorney. In that case, even if you're case is one where you do not need to hire an attorney, it may be there you are better off doing so despite the circumstances of your case. However, you need to do a pretty thorough investigation of your circumstances before you can say one way or the other whether or not you need a lawyer.
The first question that you need to ask yourself is whether or not you have children. As a father of three small children, I can tell you that it's not as if you will forget that you have kids. However, I recommend that you consider the fact that if you have kids, then you have more to lose or gain in a family law case than someone who does not have children. The reality is that you have your relationship with your children and then everything else. I'm willing to bet that you consider your relationship with your children the most important thing and that everything else is battling for second place.
With that said, there is so much at stake in the negotiation side of a divorce that you need to think through your children's issues. Every case involving kids is important. This is especially true if your children have special needs or require particular types of care when it comes to their well-being. Do you know your kids better than anyone, and if they need special attention in their education, health, or other areas of their life, then you need to be the person who gives them that special care? There is no better place for you to do so than in your family law case.
The other major factor to consider in a family law case is the amount of property you have at stake. Property is only a consideration in a divorce case. Likewise, if you are involved in a child custody case, you will invariably have children involved in your case. Otherwise, this would be a concise discussion. To be sure, however, many divorce cases involve meager amounts of property and limited risk to the parties when it comes to going into a case without a lawyer. Switching the car title to the other person's name, splitting a couple of thousand dollars between a checking account, and other tasks like these can be done without a lawyer.
Of course, your circumstances may require you to perform a more in-depth look into your case to determine whether or not you need an attorney. I would treat this discussion as a jumping-off point or a basic place for you to begin. If you have children in your divorce or are involved in a child custody case, generally speaking, you should hire an attorney. Likewise, in your divorce, if there is a substantial amount of property or you have any children involved in the case, then you need to have an attorney as well.
The best way to assess your circumstances against the Texas family code is to meet with and interview multiple family law attorneys before deciding to hire one. What you can get out of multiple interviews is that you can learn not only something about Texas family law in each of these interviews, but you can also begin to determine what you are looking for in an attorney when it comes to your personality and theirs, their experience level, how much you can pay and other factors like these.
Now that we have covered how important it is for you to consider hiring a family law attorney when you have children or a fair amount of property involved in your family law case (or both), we can now start to get into what difficulties you may face if you decide to forego hiring an attorney. Even "simple" divorce cases can go sideways on you if you don't know what you're doing and have no guidance. No one is expecting you to have as much knowledge or experience in handling a divorce or child custody case as would a family law attorney. Unfortunately for you, that is the standard by which a judge will look at your case.
Consider your case from the perspective of a judge.
An attorney will tell you that it isn't so important what they think of your case but ultimately what a family court judge will think. Everyone has an opinion about this or that matter related to your case. All you need to do to confirm this is ask a friend or family member about what they think regarding your family law case. From there, you won't learn pretty quickly that just about everyone you know has an opinion about your life.
However, having a friend or relative with an opinion about your case and an attorney having an opinion is significantly different. For one, an attorney will guide you to a determination about your case based on what a judge is likely to consider. Ultimately, it is the judge who would be deciding in your case if you and your Co party cannot come to a settlement. Otherwise, you would be taking your case before the judge and allowing them to make rulings on issues of the greatest concern to you. Shouldn't you be mainly interested in what that person must think compared to everybody else?
This is where you may encounter a hurdle in your case and not even know it until it is too late. Proceeding through your family law case without the assistance of an attorney means that you may be approaching issues based on your perspective rather than a judge. I think this is a significant mistake and missed opportunity. It would help if you approached everything within your case from a judge's perspective, understanding that what you think is not as important as what the judge will think. Judges tend to approach cases more from the perspective of the dry facts of the case rather than based on emotion. As a result, your perspective and their perspective may be completely different. As a result, you could find yourself holding opinions and positions about your case based on your biases and not on the somewhat cut and dry factors a judge will be looking to.
Drafting documents is a problem without an attorney.
Another important way that an attorney can help guide you in your case probably better than you can guide yourself is that an attorney will help you prepare documents that ultimately have to go before a judge. I have seen judges require unrepresented parties to submit multiple forms of documents until they get something right regarding the formatting of a pleading or motion that they filed. Additionally, many family court judges require that you work with an independent attorney through the county law library or courthouse to file documents.
This is another aspect of a family law case that you may not come to understand the importance of until it is too late. While some of your cases will depend upon your ability to work with your opposing party in the negotiation process, what you need to be aware of is that what you can put down onto paper will ultimately matter in your case. This is true no matter if you are involved in a divorce or a child custody case.
In a divorce, you will be working to have entered into the record a final decree of divorce that accurately reflects the nature of your settlement negotiations or the orders of a court. This final decree of divorce will give you your marching orders when it comes to how to handle dividing your kids' time between you and your spouse as well as how your community property is defined and ultimately divided. If those orders in the final decree are not accurate, are not clear, or otherwise make it difficult to divide your property or your children's time, then you will have problems down the road.
In a child custody case, you seek an effective final order in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship. This order covers the most important part of your life- your child and your relationship with your child. Having a clear order that a judge sign is the goal of your child custody case. Anything short of that would be a disservice to you and your family. Considering that these documents are long (oftentimes more than thirty pages in length) and detailed, it would make sense to have an attorney at least assist you with drafting them. That's not even to mention that the language and verbiage used in a court order are not exactly what we use in our everyday lives.
Creative solutions are hard to come by when you don’t have an attorney.
Family law cases are often decided after the parties, and their attorneys can come together to develop creative solutions to the problems facing the family. If creative solutions were not needed to answer complex problems, you and your opposing party probably wouldn't need attorneys. However, it occurs quite a bit in family law cases where parents and parties alike need to creatively think through the issues in their case to accommodate difficult circumstances such as those involving a pickup and drop off of children, visitation schedules, and even division of property.
For instance, most family law cases are familiar with the standard possession order for parental visitation. This is the quintessential family law visitation schedule where parents split time with their children, and parties can see their children regularly based on whether or not they are the primary conservator or the possessory conservator. However, if you work regular hours or for any other reason are unable to take possession of your children like this, then a standard position order would not work for you and your family. As a result, you should consider alternative means of possession and plan for creative solutions essential in your case. Many families put themselves into positions where they will struggle with visitation and possession due to the extreme difficulties they are put in about pick-up and drop-off schedules.
This could be avoided if he had an attorney who had some degree of experience in creating creative solutions 2 family-related issues for families with children. You can eliminate a lot of stress by not putting yourself in situations where you are asked to do too much regarding travel, logistics, or anything else relating to these pickup and drop-off times. You can have a pickup and drop-off schedule that works for you and your child. However, it might take some degree of creative thinking to get you there.
Likewise, you may run into a situation where you and your spouse have some difficulties dividing up your community estate. The basics of Community property in Texas are pretty straightforward. Property acquired during your marriage is presumed to be part of the community estate, absent other evidence. However, that is where the details come in and can be difficult to manage. Calculating the specific value of a certain property, determining the best way to divide property in light of each of your separatist states, and engaging future property value versus current property value are all areas where an attorney would certainly be able to assist you.
The process of dividing Community property becomes even more important because you and your spouse will likely not have the opportunity ever to come back and preview your steps and correct them for any mistakes made. Truthfully, the best thing you can do is pay close attention to the first case and then hope that no problems are moving forward. You can minimize mistakes and problems by having an experienced attorney available to walk you through the process. Otherwise, you were hoping against hope that no mistakes were made due to your inexperience in a family law case.
Being involved in a family law case means that you are working as hard as possible to do what is best for yourself and your family. This does not mean that you have to go it alone. Rather, you have an opportunity to addressed matters and get them right the first time rather than have to go back and attempt to make mistakes and hope you can come back to court in the future. Having an attorney is not a guarantee of success, but it puts you in a position to maximize the chances. Still, you have within a family lock case to address longstanding issues and put you on the road towards success in your life.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post; please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and how your family may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.