Do I Need A Lawyer?
Many people are interested in obtaining a divorce without spending the money required to hire a lawyer. Here, we will answer some questions about proceeding in a family law matter without legal representation.
Can I File Divorce Papers Without A Lawyer?
Legally, you are allowed to file divorce papers on your own. However, there are many complicated steps involved: a complaint must be filed at the circuit court, filing fees must be paid, a summons must be issued, the parties must be “served” properly, if there are minor children, Friend of the Court procedures must also be followed, petitions for hearings must be filed, parties must be properly “noticed,” answers must be filed and hearings must be attended. After all of these requirements are met, a judgment of divorce must be prepared and entered. If there are certain assets to be divided, a qualified domestic relations order must also be prepared.
Typically, people who file a “do it yourself” divorce make mistakes that can result in long delays, dismissals and unfortunate decisions about support, custody or property that do not favor them. Therefore, because the process is so complicated, it is in your best interest to be represented by a highly experienced family law attorney.
If your spouse has an attorney and you do not, it is especially likely that your spouse may obtain better results than you do. Also, under Michigan law it is considered an ethics violation for one attorney to represent two parties to the same action — so you should never consider “sharing” a lawyer with your spouse in a family law action.
If I Can’t Afford A Divorce Lawyer, Will The Court Appoint One?
No. In Michigan, the court only “appoints” lawyers in certain criminal cases. (The court may also appoint a free lawyer if your children are being removed from the home by CPS or DHS for reasons of suspected neglect or abuse.) But there are no “appointed” lawyers in divorce actions.
What About “Pro Bono” Lawyers Or “Free Legal Aid”?
If you cannot afford an attorney for your divorce, there are a small number of “free legal aid clinics” that accept a limited number of family law cases — however, these “clinics” generally have a very long waiting list and are primarily staffed by inexperienced students with little courtroom experience. Also, you must be below the poverty level to qualify for free legal aid services.
If you are below the poverty level in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb County, you may call Legal Aid at 877-964-4700 (NOTE: This office only accepts family law cases on Mondays).
However, if you have a home or property to protect, or if you have spousal support and/or child support to pay or to collect, it is important that you hire a knowledgeable and experienced divorce lawyer to fight for your rights so that you get the results that you deserve.
The decisions made in your judgment of divorce will affect you financially for the rest of your life. Without a good divorce attorney, you may not be able to collect the full amount of child support (or spousal support) to which you are entitled. Or, you may be ordered to pay an unreasonable amount of support. You could also lose your “fair share” of the home you own — or you might lose your share of your own or your spouse’s pension, retirement plan or 401(k).
As you can see, hiring a good attorney can make a difference in thousands of dollars in what you eventually receive. The legal fees you invest in an experienced, aggressive family law attorney usually will pay for itself many, many times over.
We have helped hundreds of clients protect their financial security and obtain the results they deserve, while making every effort to keep legal fees as low as possible.
Talk To Our High Net Worth Divorce Lawyers Today
If you are facing a family law matter in Oakland, Wayne or Macomb County, call us today or use our online form for a no-obligation consultation to see what we can do to obtain the results that you deserve. Call 248-469-0613 to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your divorce case.