A Southern California divorce law specialist from FamilyLaw At Home describes times when a lawyer can help in the divorce process as well as times when individuals might prefer to represent themselves.
Certified California Family Law Specialist Noelle Halaby of FamilyLaw At Home explained in a recent interview that, for those seeking a divorce, the main hurdle is reframing their relationship with their ex-spouse. Decisions about how to divide assets often flow from there.
“What you need to really do is just to begin focusing on how are you going to unwind this partnership in a professional business way,” Halaby said. “You don’t always need a lawyer to do that.”
In fact, the divorce court doesn’t guarantee participants the right to legal representation, as is done in criminal cases.
“Unlike in a criminal proceeding where you might be able to receive a lawyer, at the county or the state’s expense, when it comes to family law or civil matters, you’re not entitled to a lawyer,” Halaby explained. “What is provided to you by the court system is guidance in how to fill out forms, how to ask for certain relief, what are the procedural mechanisms, but they don’t provide legal advice.”
The Southern California divorce law specialist described two important components in a divorce, which can help individuals decide whether a lawyer is necessary when proceeding.
The first of these components relates to a couple’s assets — their possessions and finances. Halaby said that each party should understand the contents of those assets. That way, they can make informed decisions about how they are to be divided.
“What’s going to happen at the conclusion of the divorce case is we’re going to identify certain assets, we’re going to value those assets and we’re going to divide them,” the Southern California divorce law specialist said. “So if that’s what we want to do at the end, then at the beginning we have to be prepared to collect that information. The first thing you should do is really try to understand your financial position and your assets.”
Halaby noted that lawyers are generally helpful in situations where one party “holds all of the cards and all the information.”
“If that’s the case, then you may need the assistance of a lawyer (including) some advice on how to gather that information,” Halaby said.
The second component to help individuals decide whether or not they should invest in a lawyer is connected to the emotional aspect of divorce proceedings.
Halaby explained that it’s important for individuals to be able to communicate professionally with their ex-spouse throughout the divorce process. If this isn’t possible, having a lawyer facilitate communication between the two parties can help avoid heated arguments which can later be used as evidence in the courtroom.
“If you think you’re going to go through a divorce and you have custody issues, it’s not the time to have inappropriate communications, text messages with name-calling (and) profanity. All of that will become evidence at the time of trial,” Halaby explained.
Ultimately, if both parties have a clear understanding of their assets and can keep open, honest and professional communication with one another, Halaby said that hiring a lawyer may be unnecessary.
“What road you choose is going to be based upon what’s going on in the relationship, what’s going on between the two of you, whether or not you have access to information (and) whether or not you can negotiate peacefully with the other party,” Halaby said. “This is the scenario in someone’s life where what they really have to do is own the decision and try to be part of the solution.”
Halaby recommends those unsure as to whether a lawyer would be helpful in their particular case first have a consultation before committing to accepting legal aid.
“You could sit with a lawyer to have legal consultation for an hour,” Halaby suggested. “Bring enough information so that the advice you’re receiving is based upon information, and then you could use the court system, you could use the court’s website, or you could use a document preparation service to get through balance of it if there aren’t contested issues.”
Those seeking more information about how lawyers can help facilitate divorces when there are contested issues at stake can contact Noelle Halaby and the Southern California divorce law specialists at FamilyLaw At Home by calling (818) 502-3939.
Ed. Note: This article is a Community Spotlight based on a recent radio interview with FamilyLaw At Home.
FamilyLaw At Home provides accessible, professional California family law advice remotely via computer or mobile using internet software for video conferencing. The California family law specialists at FamilyLaw At Home help individuals navigate Southern California divorce law, legal separation, annulment, paternity matters, custody disputes, child and/or spousal support issues, post-judgment modification of child custody, for child support help and spousal support help, restraining orders, prenuptial agreements and mediation, and cases where a domestic violence attorney/lawyer is required.
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