There are some things in life you can do on your own – and maybe even do well. I’m sure a great many of you do your own taxes. Some of you can manage your own minor car repairs. A select few of you home-school your own children. None of you can manage your own chiropractic adjustment. See what I mean?
Legal services run this entire spectrum. On one side of that spectrum are those certain cases that most of you can handle on your own, and on the other end are the cases none of you should never, ever attempt to move forward pro-se (as your own attorney).
Let’s see if we can’t create a single hypothetical case that we can apply to each situation.
Imagine a divorce action.
On the easiest part of the spectrum, where most people would probably be able to manage on their own without having to hire attorneys, is a divorce with no minor children, when neither party needs alimony, the parties are in complete agreement as to who is getting which asset(s) and paying which debt(s), and the parties’ health insurance is not tied to their marriage in any manner. The joint bank account has been separated. The parties are mostly civil and understand that the marriage was a blessing for a time, but both need to move on with their lives.
On the most difficult part of the spectrum, wherein both parties should absolutely have competent legal representation throughout the process, is a divorce in which there is at least one minor child, one of the parties is self-employed in a marital business he or she owns in whole or in part. Husband has health insurance solely through a plan in wife’s name, which she obtains as a benefit of her employment. Wife has not worked in a decade and is facing non-elective surgery. There are significant, complex marital assets and some joint debt. There is such enmity between the parties that they are unable to co-parent, or even sit in the courthouse together. For a case like this I doubt the judge will even proceed without insisting both parties speak with an attorney.
However, most cases land somewhere in the middle. Not quite as straightforward as Example 1, but not as difficult as Example 2.
If you need to know whether an attorney is necessary meet with two or three attorneys and get their opinions!
Most family court attorneys in RI are quite candid about whether legal representation is necessary. They will not waste your time because they are so protective of their own!