For the past 35 years I have practiced matrimonial and family law.  During this period more than half of the clients I represent come to me to “fix” or “undo” what they did when they went unrepresented during their divorce, custody or support matter.

Here are the reasons I hear that they did not use an attorney:

  • Too expensive.

  • Don’t want conflict or to fight, want to get along.

  • Just want it over, in a hurry.

  • Believe it will be fair without involving a lawyer, trust the other party.

  • Can redo it later if it is not good.

Let’s break these down.

TOO EXPENSIVE.    The money they spend to try and “fix” it generally costs more and is less successful than if they hired the right attorney from the beginning.  Often my client realizes they lost more money and assets in their resolution than they counted on and financially it cost them way more than hiring an attorney would. Finally, in many situations the spouse may have to contribute to your legal fees (another reason they pressure you to not hire one).  ALSO, NOTE THAT NO ATTORNEY CAN REPRESENT BOTH PARTIES. DO NOT BE FOOLED.

DON’T WANT CONFLICT.  JUST WANT IT OVER. To completely avoid conflict this generally means that one party has to give the other party what they want.  I see clients generally “give in” to avoid rocking the boat or making the other party upset.  They are afraid and this fear is driving their decision-making. Once they are no longer apart and there isn’t a rush to get out of the situation and fear is not driving the situation, they realize that the “deal” they brokered for themselves is very “one-sided” and not fair and they are stuck with it. This breaks my heart.

TRUST THE OTHER PARTY TO BE FAIR.  First, without an attorney how do you know what “fair” should even look like.  Shouldn’t you know what you are entitled to and explore what you need, not just at the time, but well into the future, before you make choices.  And NO, the internet cannot tell you this, as it does not filter “bad law” or properly explain true applicable law.

CAN REDO IT LATER.  The only way to reopen a divorce (not enforce but do over etc.) is to prove fraud. This is very difficult. Otherwise, if you waive maintenance or other assets or take more debt than you should or not enough of an asset, you are STUCK with this.  If you make a custody arrangement like 50/50 it is REALLY HARD to change once it is started.  In, NYS the case law specifically states that a child’s wishes are NOT enough to change the custodial arrangement.  So, no, you cannot just change it because the kids are older and want something else.

Creating a settlement which involves your family, their ability to live, your life and your future involve the MOST IMPORTANT decisions of your life.  There is absolutely NO RISK in contacting me for a FREE initial consultation to aviod the pittfalls described above