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The Sallah Family Law Firm

To Lawyer or not to Lawyer?

by Dean Sallah

The Role of the Matrimonial Attorney.

Most people have heard the adage ‘Any man who represents himself has a fool for a client’. Having exclusively practiced Matrimonial and Family law for last 18 years I can assure you that the saying could not be more true. Yet, incredibly, I have witnessed litigant after litigant attempt to represent themselves in nearly every type of contested matrimonial related matter. In most instances disaster results, though on occasion a lucky few have had some limited success.

There are some obvious reasons not to represent yourself, and you certainly do not need a law degree to figure them out. A non-lawyer has a limited knowledge of the law, and even less knowledge as to how the law may apply to their personal circumstances. Further, the average person is unlikely to have any working knowledge of the rules of civil procedure, nor the necessary understanding of the rules of the Court in which their case is being heard.

For those reasons alone no person should ever handle a contested matrimonial without an attorney.

But there is another reason. A less examined one if you will.

Restraint.

What am I talking about? Well, let me explain. Lawyers sometimes refer to themselves as ‘counselors at law.’ This is an apt description for the matrimonial attorney. Indeed, I cannot think of any area of the law where the term ‘counselor’ is more apropos. In fact, more than half of the calls I receive each day have more to do with issues such as “What should I do?”or -not do- more precisely - than actual legal issues. The reality is clients going through a divorce seek advise concerning every part of the most basic aspects of daily life. What can they say or not say to their children; can they take that vacation; can they date; can buy this or that; how to speak to each other; what to say or not say to each other; and the list goes on and on.

When a person has no representation there is no ‘counselor’ available to answer those types of questions. There is no one there to say ‘No’.

A divorce is an emotionally charged experience that touches all aspects of a persons life, especially while they are going though it. Emotion can cloud judgment, and usually does.

It is nearly impossible to separate emotions while handling ones own case. And that leads to poor decision making. That, combined with a limited knowledge of law and procedure, is a recipe for failure.

Indeed, even the experienced attorney can fail miserably handling their own divorce.(See the article below.)

In all my years of practicing law I have not met one person who handled their own real estate closing. Yet many of those same people will try to handle their own divorce. While I recognize that hiring an attorney can be costly, the long term financial repercussions of being ‘handed your hat’ so to speak far out way any short term costs for a decent Divorce lawyer.

You need not look any further than the article below to see the risk posed by a lack of sensible restraint.

http://www.newyorklawjournal.com/id=1202737793949/Attorney-Sanctioned-for-Actions-in-Handling-His-Own-Divorce?mcode=1202615704879

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