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What Are the Pros and Cons of Representing Yourself in Florida Family Court?
Family court can be expensive. You may have considered skipping a lawyer and decided to represent yourself.
While there are pros and cons, in most cases, you’re better off working with someone who has been down this road before. Speak with a trusted Orlando family law attorney to get support and guidance on your next steps.
Does Florida Law Require You to Hire a Family Law Attorney?
No Florida law requires you to hire a lawyer for a family law matter. You can represent yourself if you so choose. This is called pro se representation.
But just because you’re allowed to represent yourself doesn’t mean you should. For example, if you’re going through a contentious divorce or battling child custody, these are not legal issues you want to tackle alone. Though you may save some money, you may lose in court, especially if the other party has a lawyer representing them.
Pros & Cons of Representing Yourself
So what are the advantages and disadvantages of going pro se in family court? Here’s a brief discussion of several highlights.
You can save money on attorney’s fees. When you don’t hire a lawyer, your costs will be cheaper. You may only have to pay filing fees, service costs, and other court-mandated fees. However, you’ll miss out on the legal guidance and advice from someone who’s been to family court before and knows how the system works.
You’re in charge. You don’t have to run any ideas by another person, and you retain sole and complete control over your case. But, as we’ll discuss below, this may not always be a good thing.
It can be a way to show goodwill. When you don’t hire a lawyer, you’re sending a signal that you’re trying to resolve your issues amicably. But if the other person hires a lawyer, this can backfire.
You have to do everything. When you don’t have a lawyer to lean on, all the duties fall to you. That means you’ll need to prepare all of your court filings, prepare for hearings, collect and review evidence, negotiate with the other party or their attorney, and countless other items. Plus, you’ll probably need to take extensive time off of work to accomplish all these tasks.
You may not understand the law. Courts have specific rules that must be followed, including requirements for documents filed. It can be tedious to know what the rules are, let alone follow all of them perfectly. If you don’t, your filing may be rejected, or you may not have collected the right evidence to prove your case.
Missing deadlines. Courts also have strict deadlines for filing documents. If you miss one of these deadlines, the argument you were going to make may be barred, and the court won’t hear it.
You’re outmatched. If you’re representing yourself and the other party has a lawyer, it may be easy for them to out-lawyer you. They’ll be able to adhere to the court’s strict guidelines and will be familiar with the laws at play. You’ll have to play catchup from day one.
Extra costs. If you lose your family law matter, depending on the type of matter at issue, you may have to pay the other party’s attorney’s fees. This will place you at even greater financial risk than if you had simply hired a lawyer from the start.
Speak with an Orlando Family Law Attorney If You’re Considering Representing Yourself in Florida Family Court
If you’re considering representing yourself in a family law matter, you should consider other options. Partnering with a skilled family law attorney could be the right option for you. However, you should speak with a lawyer first and ensure you’re comfortable working with them.