When Should You Hire an Attorney?

A lot of people wonder if they really need an attorney.  Or, they may think they need an attorney, but want to bring him or her onboard only towards the end of the proceeding.

When people who are getting divorced ask me whether they need one, my answer is “Yes.”  Of course, I am an attorney and I have a bias.  But, even with my bias, my answer is still correct.  If you are getting divorced you need an attorney.

Another question people might have is whether they can afford an attorney.  That’s not a question I can answer.  I usually suggest that they cannot afford not to have an attorney, but then again, I’m biased.  I know that  a lot of people cannot afford to hire an attorney.  This is one reason that I have a link to free divorce forms on my website.  I think this is a good idea.  It does not conflict with what I do, because I do not sell forms.  I sell legal advice.

Does it work to handle most of the divorce proceeding yourself, then bring the attorney on for advice after you have signed an agreement?  No, this does not work. 

Here’s a question: would you sue someone for $300,000.00 without an attorney?  Probably not.  If you were being sued for $300,000.00, would you hire an attorney to defend you?  Probably.  Okay, so what if spousal maintenance is an issue?  Assume that under the facts of your case, either you or your spouse is entitled to $2,500 per month in spousal maintenance for ten years.  Do the math.  In one year, $2,500 per month equals $30,000.00.  Over ten years, $2,500 per month equals $300,000.00.  Regardless of whether you are trying to get $300,000.00 or trying to avoid paying it, doesn’t it make sense to have the professional help of an attorney?

There are other areas where it makes sense to get legal advice from an attorney.  There are nuances to child support and child custody laws that the average person does not understand.  And, why would they?  Most people only get divorced once or twice in their lives.  I have not kept track, but I have probably been involved in at least two thousand divorces, giving advice, representing clients in divorce proceedings, post divorce proceedings, child support modifications, paternity proceedings and other kinds of court proceedings.

You can rely on what Chuck from shipping told you about his divorce.  Of course, he might have been divorced ten years ago, in front of a different judge, when different laws were in effect, with totally different facts.  Or, you can rely on what an attorney tells you.

Daniel Fiskum is a Minnesota divorce attorney who has been practicing since 1992. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and has been named a "Super Lawyer" by the Minnesota Journal of Law and Politics. Mr. Fiskum is currently writing a book for attorneys and non-attorneys entitled "The Streetfighter's Guide to Divorce," which is scheduled for publication in May, 2010. Many of his blog entries will appear in the book. You may contact attorney Fiskum directly at (952) 270-7700. His office is located in the Carlson Towers in Minnetonka, Minnesota. The Fiskum Law website is found at www.fiskumlaw.com.

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