What if the Other Person Has a Lawyer and I Don’t?

by | May 2, 2024 | Child Custody & Visitation, Divorce, Restraining Orders

You have found yourself going through a family law matter alone, without representation, and Opposing Party hires a lawyer. What now? First thing to do, is not to panic. You can certainly go through your Family Law matter and the Courts self-represented, if you are comfortable and confident to do so. That is not a the most recommended option, however, it’s possible.

If the other party has an attorney, you should get into contact with the attorney and determine their game plan for your case and form a partnership with the attorney so that you can get through your case with a level of understanding and respect, however, please remember that this is not your attorney as well.

The other party’s attorney is limited in what they can tell you and how they can assist you. As they represent the other party’s interests, they cannot give you legal advice on how to perform certain tasks, they cannot review agreements and/or stipulations with to ensure that you fully understand, and they cannot ensure that you are absolutely getting the best deal if settlement is discussed.

What they can do is prepare legal documents and agreements for your review, they can discuss settlement with you and negotiation, and work as a contact of the Opposing Party so that you do not have to speak with them directly.

As of recently, the laws have also changed in a few areas with self-represented litigants, or pro pers, as attorneys we can no longer electronically serve you documents without explicit permission and execution of certain documents, this means that you will not be able to emailed important Court documents, unless you agree by filing out the electronic service agreement, which also means that you will either need to be personally served, meaning someone hands you the documents directly or you are mail-served, which means the documents come to your residence directly through the mail.

When it comes to Court Hearings, you will have to represent yourself, even if the other party has an attorney. So you should be prepared to relay your facts, arguments, and requests directly to the Judge, and also have enough of an understanding to make counter argument/requests to the Court after Opposing Counsel has said made their argument.

Sometimes, the relationship that you form with Opposing Counsel, will not be one of respect and helpfulness, but, rather, will be contentious or unhelpful, its in these scenarios that you must understand they are not there to assist you nor represent you and you will need to be able to hold your own in Court and when negotiating agreements.

Please remember that you may seek your own representation at any time during your case. There are multiple forms of representation you can obtain as well. You can hire an attorney for the entire matter meaning full representation, where we will represent you in all court hearings, in making agreements, and in negotiation discussions. Limited Scope Representation is where we are hired for a specific hearing or issue. For example, maybe you have a hearing coming up on child support, but you are unsure how to calculate the numbers and determine what guideline child support looks like. You can hire an attorney to handle aspects of only child support and continue to self-represent on all other issues.

Lastly, you can hire an attorney to essentially advise you on your matter, this is where you would still represent yourself, however, you would have the advice and guidance from an attorney so that you felt adequately prepared for all court hearings and settlement discussions.

All in all, there is no issue with you representing yourself through the entirety of your matter, even if the other party has an attorney. You will either need to work directly with them, standing up for your own interests to the best of your ability, and building a partnership with that counsel to get through this quickly and effectively or you can hire an experienced attorney of your own, who will represent your interests and yours alone.