Michelle D. Wallis

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When do I need a family law lawyer in Hanford, Kings County, Tulare, Visalia or Fresno County

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Family Law Attorneys aren’t appointed by the Court. Unlike criminal matters where a person’s very personal liberty is at stake, in family law there aren’t any free attorneys. Family law cases include: dissolution of marriage, child support, child custody, restraining orders, guardianships, and conservatorships. These can be the most volatile issues in the entire legal system. So, when do you need a family law attorney, and when can you represent yourself?

Attorneys have an adage that, “a person who represents themself in court has a fool for a client and a fool for a lawyer.” So, ideally in every case where you are before the Court for a family law case, it’s always better to have an Attorney. That being said, sometimes people can’t afford an attorney. In that case, there are very often help centers in the Courts. For example, in Kings County, Tulare County, and Fresno County, there are family law facilitators with offices in the Courthouse or close to the courthouse. These offices and their staff members are able to help you figure out which paperwork you might need to file in your case. The catch is that they cannot fill out the paperwork for you. Other times, people will chose to have a paperwork service fill out their paperwork. Please be careful with these services, because they often cost as much as an Attorney, without providing the same level of service or protection. Also, keep in mind that an Attorney is the only person who can appear for you besides yourself. So, if a paperwork service completes your paperwork, or if you get help finding what to file from the family law facilitators, you still have to argue your case in Court. Very often, your case will be against an attorney. That’s really hard.

Trying to navigate Court without experience and a law degree, is like trying to play chess without knowing any of the rules. Moreover, when it’s your own case, you are always emotionally tied & involved with it. Especially in family law. Since family law includes some of the most volatile and emotional cases in the entire legal system, ideally, it’s best talk to a legal professional about achieving what you want in your case. Sometimes parties agree, and aren’t going to fight. Even then, the parties still have to jump through the legal system’s hoops and fill out the requisite paperwork. It’s not easy, and can be pretty complicated even if you have an agreement with the opposing side. Your family law lawyer should help you navigate this system, and help you make sense of the Court system’s rules. It’s so much less expensive (and more effective) to hire a lawyer and start your case off correctly than it is to try and do it yourself, and mess up and then have to hire a lawyer to clean up the mess. If you simply cannot hire an attorney, then working with the family law facilitator is a must. Be prepared, understand what you are arguing, and know that the Judge will not give you much leeway for representing yourself, called going “Pro-Per”, in the legal system, because it is assumed that you know what you are doing if you are before the court. In the end, hiring an attorney for any type of family law case rather than muddling through it yourself is always a good decision.