By Pamela Edwards-Swift, Esq.
A couple of years ago I wrote an article on whether or not a person really needs a lawyer when getting a divorce. The longer I practice family law, the more convinced I am that not only does a person need legal representation, the type of representation is just as important. Would you go to an Urologist for a foot injury? I think not. And, what happens when your general practitioner doctor discovers you have cancer? Does he/she treat you? No, they send you to an endocrinologist, or other doctor who specializes in cancer treatment.
The same is true in law. How important is it to have as much time with your children as possible? How important to you is lose more than your fair share of the community assets? How important is it for you to know your full legal rights regarding spousal support, how to determine the extent of community assets, etc? Deciding to do it on your own, or hiring an attorney who does not specialize in family does not make sense.
This becomes an issue quite frequently with people who consult, and ultimately retain my firm. They may have tried to do it alone. Or, perhaps they chose an attorney who practiced more than one are of the law and was not well educated in family law. Quite often this office encounters such clients who were not properly represented and they come to see my office to clean up the mess.
Recently, the Los Angeles Times had an article about this vary issue. A Judge in the Los Angeles Superior Court discovered that there were thousands of cases in the system where people never completed their divorce. The Judge had discovered that although some of these people had reconciled, the majority of them thought they were divorced, and worse yet, some had remarried, making them unintentional bigamists!
How important is having an attorney? Very. But more important than having an attorney, make certain it is an attorney who only practices family law. Better yet, hire a family law specialist. The State Bar of California provides you with information as to whether or not your attorney is a specialist. Just go to their website, www.calbar.ca.gov and search for your attorneys name. If the attorney is a certified legal specialist, you will see on their information the words “Legal Specialist” and the area of law next to their name state their area of expertise. If your attorney is truly a legal specialist, it will say so. If you do not yet have an attorney, the State Bar website also lists specialists. Follow the following prompts: go to “attorney search” on the home page, on the next page go to “legal specialist search,” on the next page under “specialty area” pull up family law and under county pull up San Bernardino County (for Chino Hills). It will give you the names of the certified family law specialists in San Bernardino County.
The bottom line is don’t do it alone and don’t hire just any attorney. Look for the best. Look for a certified family law specialist.