The question, “Do I Need a Family Law Attorney?” comes up in discussions involving Divorce, and other issues such as, Child Custody, Child Support or Alimony (known as, Spousal support). In New Mexico, there is no law that requires you to hire legal representation in a family law case. Therefore, you always have the option to represent yourself.
However, when we hear this question, often the individual is also wondering, “What is a Family Law Attorney going to do for me?” In order to answer this question, we’ve looked at some of the biggest differences in cases with pro se litigants (parties who represents themselves) and represented litigants (parties who have an attorney). Based on these observations, here’s a list of 3 reasons to hire a Family Law Attorney in New Mexico.
1. Legal Protection & Advocacy
Family law is complicated. For example, you have to study hundreds of statues, stay abreast of changes and the legal climate, and know the outcomes of past court cases. Therefore, it’s easy to see how someone could get taken advantage of when the other party is making threatening claims, like those seen above. After all, most individuals don’t have any legal knowledge or experience to fall back on. It’s even easier to get taken advantage of if the other party is represented and you assume that s/he has talked with his/her attorney and therefore, give more merit to such claims. However, such threats are not nearly as anxiety-producing when you have an attorney there to tell you what’s realistic and what’s not, and how you can protect your rights.
2. Proper Legal Documents & Court Procedure
An attorney will do things by the proper procedure, including drafting, filing, serving documents and meeting time restrictions. Pro se litigants are held to the same procedural standards as attorneys. Therefore, if you don’t draft a document correctly, or properly serve a document, or file it within the appropriate time frame, the judge has the discretion to exclude any or all of those documents. As you have seen above, a pro se litigant is also expected to follow the proper rules of evidence and format for presenting a case to the judge. If evidence is not presented properly, the judge can exclude it. Therefore, don’t make the grave mistake of underestimating the significance of properly handling your case and following correct legal procedures.
3.Qualified & Objective Support
Although it’s typical to turn to family and friends in time of need, an attorney should be your sounding board when it comes to legal decisions involving your case. Even if they (family and friends) have gone through similar situations, they don’t know all the details of your case, and what was best for them isn’t necessarily best for you. Don’t get us wrong! Family and friends can be a great support during this time. However, it doesn’t change the fact that they’re not qualified. For legal advice, seek a professional who is licensed and practices family law, otherwise you’re just putting yourself at risk.
4. Financial Security (ok I know I said 3, but this one is thrown in for free!)
When you hire a family law attorney, you’ll have legal fees to pay for his/her services. However, hiring an attorney can ensure that you’re financially savvy and can end up saving you money in the long run. Here’s how:
- a. You could end up paying more than you need to in child support, or not receive enough child support.
- b. You may end up paying more than you need to in spousal support, or not receive enough spousal support.
- c. You could end up having to go back to court to fix mistakes that you made in your divorce decree or custody order. (After all, prevention is typically always cheaper.)