It is estimated that in more than half of all family law matters, at least one party is self-represented. The most common reason for self-representing is affordability. Many simply cannot afford to retain a lawyer. However, there is another subset of self-represented litigants that have the means to hire counsel but choose not to for a multitude of reasons: they don’t believe self-representing will be that hard, they think lawyers will make their matters worse, or they want to confront their ex-spouse themselves. Some simply don’t believe that lawyers will add value. In any business relationship, if you’re offering a service for a fee, that service must provide value. That begs the question, in the context of a divorce, are lawyers worth it?
In contested family law matters, research indicates that lawyers absolutely do provide you with value. According to a July 2014 study by the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family, settlement is less likely when there is a self-represented litigant involved. This is thought to be due to self-represented litigants having unrealistically high expectations for a specific outcome while also being understandably more emotional than if there were a lawyer in their place. Further, in the same study, it was found that self-represented litigants are thought to achieve worse outcomes with regards to child support, spousal support, and property division than if they had legal representation.
If hiring a lawyer will increase the likelihood that your family law issues will be resolved through settlement while also achieving better outcomes for you and your children, then there is good reason to believe that you will be better off with counsel than without. Lawyers are able to offer a breadth of experience and understanding in the law thereby making your life (and divorce) easier. If you are going through a difficult or contentious divorce, and you have the means to hire legal representation, it is in your best interests to do so. You just might thank yourself later.