Preventing a mess is easier than cleaning up a mess
When I tell people to get an attorney, it is because I am trying to save them money and not spend more. I know that may not sound right, but I always try to use examples to illustrate my point. Here is a case that came into my office last night.
Mother hardly gets child support from the Father. Child is 17 and very troublesome. Child runs off to a friends house where anything goes. The Mother of the friend files an action for custody. Both mothers agree to share custody back in March. Now the Mother of the friend comes after the other Mother for child support and wins! Worst yet, the child support is probably three times more than what it should be because it doesn’t account for the other Mother’s income as well as any child support that the Father should be paying.
So, she hands me this mess and says get my son back. I tell her I’d be glad to help her but it’ll cost her much more (3 times+) than what it would have cost if she hired me for the first court appearance. Now, I have to fight to undo the consent order just to get my foot in the door for a custody hearing. On top of that, I would be fighting against a status quo that has been established for several months now.
Her reason for not calling an attorney is that she called legal aid and they told her that she did not need an attorney. When she called them back after the second hearing, they advised her that she did not qualify for legal aid. Thus, I think she misunderstood what legal aid told her.
Bottom line, you should speak to an attorney in person if you are facing any legal dispute. If the attorney says you don’t need one, ask for a detailed explanation. For example, if a client comes to me with a $2000 dispute in small claims court, my fee could be $2000 or only $1000. Either way, it doesn’t make much sense to hire me. However, I would have no problem with the client coming into my office to find that out as there may be other issues besides just dollars that would make more sense for the client to hire an attorney. With a free consultation, the only thing you spent is a little time.