When speaking with prospective clients, I sometimes ask: if your spouse has an attorney, shouldn’t you? There are five reasons why you should have your own representation in your divorce case, instead of relying on an attorney representing your spouse:
1. Your spouse’s attorney is an advocate for the spouse and not you. Many times a spouse will feel clever when he walks into court without an attorney only to lose valuable rights. This happens when the spouse does not have an advocate on his or her side. Get someone to argue for you and tell the court about your side!
2. You inevitably will either lose rights that you otherwise would be entitled to or you will settle for less than the law allows. Divorce is not just arguing in court but also paperwork. Feeling clever that he or she never hired a lawyer, the spouse will neglect the paperwork. Bad idea. Now the court will interpret the law as if you defaulted or interpret that law against you because you have not appeared. Pay the maximum spousal support amount because you did not give evidence of your own income and financial circumstances. As to visitation with your children, the court may reduce what you normally would get because you decided not to describe for the court your relationship with your children and how important they are to you. You get the idea.
3. In California, an attorney is subject to discipline and is forbidden from representing a client in a “frivolous” matter, one which is unsupported by law and/or facts. So the court knows that your attorney would not represent you if your case did not lack merit in the first place.
4. An attorney adds objectivity to your case. Each client views his/her case as the Super Bowl and Supreme Court all in one. The attorney provides objectivity to the court, which is often inundated with many cases and needs to get to the core of the dispute as fast as possible. A client will be emotional in court. The court will discount what the client is saying because the judge knows that the client has something to lose.
5. When you hire an attorney, the attorney’s staff will complete the paperwork and have it served properly. The client is thus free to keep working at his or her job. The client need not spend hour upon hour of research in his own case and reinventing the wheel. The attorney associates many people for a single case. What is routine for an attorney would be a major milestone for the client. For instance, a client may not serve the papers on another party in the divorce. An attorney will normally associate an outside process server to do the service of all papers without even thinking. This will be a major problem for client. Also, the client would have to learn all the local rules for a particular county in just that one case.
In conclusion, as a party in a divorce proceeding, a spouse should have legal representation.