This is Thomas Ferreira, your family law mediator and lawyer in Carlsbad California. Today I want to talk about how to involve a family law expert in your case while staying self-represented.

Are you facing child custody, divorce or another family law problem and wondering how you’ll get through the process without spending huge money on an attorney? Or perhaps you’re wondering how on earth you’re going to afford an attorney.

If this is you, I’ve got some valuable information to share, information that can save you thousands and protect your sanity and happiness.

A recent paper on self-represented and represented divorce litigants discusses surveys of both represented and unrepresented family law litigants, and contains these surprising results:

Sixty-four percent of represented people hired a lawyer because they wanted an expert to represent them.
However, self-represented divorcees had the same level of positive reaction to their court experience as those with lawyers (64 % compared to 63%), but had fewer dissatisfied and very dissatisfied reactions (16% versus 29%).
Self-representeds were more likely to report that they understood the divorce decree.
Self-representeds were less likely to seek a modification of the judge’s decision.
70% said they would represent themselves again.
What to do? My advice is to get educated on the process first. You need to know what you don’t know, and there are great resources that are available for free to get you started on understanding the process. Our office will soon be offering a free video series on what I call the 4 “Ps” of a successful divorce experience: Purpose, Planning, Process and avoiding Pitfalls.

You can use attorneys only when necessary—such as to appear for a hearing if you feel uncomfortable representing yourself, drafting a pleading or preparing settlement documents. This is called “limited scope representation.”

Take advantage of workshops in your jurisdiction and go watch some court hearings at your local courthouse. Our office offers free monthly workshops and webinars to give you the information you need. That will help you gain confidence in handling representation.

I’ve said before that the most cost-effective way to use divorce experts is through the mediation process. In mediation, you can meet with a lawyer or other professional whose role is to facilitate a conversation, not engage in battle. Self-directed divorce and custody resolutions will better stand the test of time, keep you out of court, maintain your ability to co-parent and lead to vastly more satisfied parties.

Most mediators will do all your paperwork and the required financial disclosures. The product of mediation is a divorce decree that is your own, and not the product of a third-party decision maker.

Mediation is the single best way to a successful result that benefits all parties and children. For an absolutely free explanation of how this works, feel free to give me a call.

I am …

Thomas D. Ferreira, Esq.

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