It can be tempting when pursuing action in family court to represent ones' self. After all, it's not required, and why not save the money on attorney's fees, right?
The problem is that this often ends up costing more in the long run, whether directly in cash or assets or, as in cases of child custody, parenting time and other benefits that one may deem important.
Our Brooklyn family law attorneys are dedicated to fighting for our clients, even in complex cases, and we strive to keep our prices reasonable in doing so. That's why we offer $399 uncontested divorce assistance, and $599 uncontested divorce assistance in cases involving children.
These costs should be considered investments in yours and your children's future. The recent case of Davidson v. Carrillo is an illustration of how not hiring an attorney can backfire.
In this case out of Wyoming, the parents had two children together. While both parents were separated, the relationship was cordial and both parents indicated that while they had greatly varying styles of parenting, they each respected the other.
For a time, the older child, who had special needs, was living with the father while the younger child was living with the mother. Both parents worked jobs earning less than minimum wage, though the mother was attending school full-time.
The father filed a petition seeking primary custody of the younger child, indicating it was in the children's best interests to live together, as they shared a close relationship. He also sought child support. He did both things without the aid of an attorney, and both of his requests were granted.
The problem was the terms on which these requests were granted. The parenting time order the court reached essentially gave the mother more daytime hours with the children than the father, despite his position as the parent with primary custody. Additionally, the mother was ordered to pay $280 monthly in child support payments, which the father would later contend were insufficient and improper because no financial affidavit had been requested prior to the order. Also, the court did not order those payments to made retroactively. The father would also later argue that his due process rights were circumvented when the court limited the amount of time during the trial court hearing in which he was allowed to cross-examine his ex-wife.
The Wyoming Supreme Court granted review upon appeal, which was also filed pro se (without a lawyer). The state high court rejected all of the husband's arguments. The court found that most lacked merit, but beyond that, husband had failed to raise objections to these issues during the trial court hearing. Raising objections during hearings - even if they are overruled - preserves the issue for later consideration upon appeal.
This is something we would not necessarily expect someone who is not an attorney to know. In fact, there are many procedural issues of which the parties involved may not be aware.
By all accounts, this individual fared better than most, having been granted his initial requests. This was likely due to the fact that, by all accounts, he was articulate and respectful and presented a good case. However, the divided outcome shows that this is not always enough.
While it's impossible to say for sure, there is a likelihood that had he been represented by an attorney, the outcome may have been more to his advantage.
If you are contemplating a divorce in New York City, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.
Davidson v. Carrillo, May 22, 2014, Wyoming Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:
Negotiating a Fair New York City Divorce Settlement, May 5, 2014, Brooklyn Child Custody Lawyer Blog