To Hire or Not Hire Legal Counsel?

The recent "great recession" created a growing trend within family courts involving litigants who represent themselves instead of hiring an attorney. While this may work well in relatively simple cases, it may not work so well if the issues are more complex.

Consider as an example the discovery and disclosure processes involved in family law cases. Just because one side has an attorney and the other side represents themselves does not mean that the self-represented party does not have to properly comply with discovery and disclosure duties. A recent case on point involved a marriage of over 50 years and relatively sizeable assets. During the course of the family law proceeding, Husband represented himself in between the three sets of attorneys that represented him at various stages of the case. Wife was continuously represented by counsel throughout the case.

Prior to trial, Wife's attorney served upon Husband preliminary written discovery (initial written discovery is a common process in most family law cases involving children and/or assets). Upon receipt of the discovery, Husband hired an attorney; however, responses were not provided to the discovery. After nearly 90 days had passed from the time of service of the initial discovery, Wife's attorney filed a motion to compel Husband's discovery responses. Husband then fired his attorney upon receipt of the motion to compel but still failed to provide discovery responses.

Despite the court's order that Husband was mandated to provide responses to the discovery, he still failed to provide the responses. Wife's attorney then filed the appropriate motions with the court for monetary, evidentiary and termination sanctions against Husband. This was apparently the impetus for Husband's hiring a fresh set of attorneys who apparently were able to provide responses that were ultimately deemed by the court to be improper for various statutory reasons.

In summary, and despite occasional use of counsel, Husband was not able to overcome the consequences of not properly adhering to discovery and disclosures procedures. The consequences were noteworthy given the scope of assets and issues - they involved not only monetary sanctions against Husband, but evidentiary sanctions that most likely adversely affected Husband's case and claims.

If you or someone you know is a party to a family law proceeding, you need to give serious consideration to whether counsel is or is not necessary. While simple cases may not necessarily require the assistance of legal counsel, a more complex case involving custody or assets will likely require the services of an experience family law attorney. At Bayati Law Group, family law is our only area of practice. If you or someone you know is involved in a family law legal matter, contact our team for a consultation. We look forward to helping you.

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