Why Don’t Lawyers Represent Themselves in Their Divorces?
If you were to ask a random attorney if they would consider representing themselves in their own divorce, you would probably be met with a shudder. Contrary to popular belief, most attorneys are not only unwilling to represent themselves, also known as “pro se,” but they also balk at the mere thought of doing so. What’s the problem?
First, it is important to note that not all attorneys practice family or matrimonial law. Even fewer practice this type of law exclusively. There are some lawyers who have a generalized practice and may handle a few divorces or custody matters here and there. But, if the attorney has little to no experience with divorce or family law, they will feel wholly uncomfortable representing their own interests in an area of law in which they know next to nothing.
A good way to think about this is: You wouldn’t go to an eye surgeon to fix your heart, right? You would want a cardiologist or some other type of medical doctor with a lot of experience dealing with and treating patients with heart problems. Similarly, you would not want to retain a patent attorney to handle your divorce. Many believe that once an attorney becomes an attorney, they can handle any type of legal issue. And, while they legally can practice any type of law, few practice all types. There are just too many areas of law, too many court rules to follow and too many procedures that vary across the different practice areas. So, if a divorcing attorney is a personal injury lawyer, they may not feel comfortable navigating the family court system or practicing in an area in which they are not familiar.
But, what if the divorcing attorney actually is a attorneys? Even then, you would be hard pressed to find a matrimonial attorney who would be comfortable handling his or her own divorce case. Unlike other areas of law, such as corporate or tax law, there is an extreme amount of emotion involved in family law cases. So much so, that even attorneys with no connection other than the attorney/client connection sometimes get a little too emotionally invested in their clients’ cases. So, you could imagine the difficulty if that attorney had to strive to remain focused and calm while attempting to work through issues regarding custody of their own children or financial support for themselves or their spouse. Above and beyond all else, an attorney must maintain professionalism in front of the clients and in front of the court. Trying to remain professional at all times when representing yourself in an emotional court proceeding or highly contested matter could be impossible. That attorney would need to communicate, negotiate and possibly litigate against their own spouse throughout the proceedings. They could possibly have to cross examine their own husband or wife on the stand in open court. Talk about uncomfortable!
Most attorneys, family law practitioners or not, would agree that turning the job of handling their divorce over to professional and experienced family law attorneys is in the best interests of all involved, including their children. There is certainly enough stress in simply dealing with the emotional upheaval that inherently comes with divorce without having to worry about court rules, procedures and unfamiliar laws.
If you are looking to file or if you have filed for divorce and have questions about your rights, please contact us to schedule your consultation with one of our attorneys who has dedicated their practice to family law in New Jersey.