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Why it's a bad idea to represent yourself in your divorce

We are sure our readers have heard the old expression, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” While it may sound suspicious coming from a law firm, we believe this proverb to be true when it comes to family law matters like divorce, child custody and so forth.

Going through divorce can be complicated, and there is a lot at stake. A mistake by a spouse representing him- or herself can force him or her to give up key rights, and wind up getting less than they deserve.

Even an attorney can be a poor self-advocate in family law court, as a recent case demonstrates. A New York patent lawyer has been sanctioned $10,000 by the court for acting as a “bully” toward virtually everyone involved in his divorce proceeding, according to the ABA Journal.

Among the attorney’s offenses: calling a judge a liar and “pathetic!”; refusing to help pay an attorney appointed to represent the couple’s son, and creating a website to defame her; suing his wife, her family and her attorneys; and filing a “reckless and dishonest” complaint with the state Office of Professional Conduct against a psychiatrist hired to evaluate his son.

The husband says he will appeal the sanction.

This is obviously an extreme case, but it appears to show what can happen when a person representing him- or herself allows personal feelings to interfere with his or her legal strategy. One of the services an experienced divorce attorney provides is the ability to advocate without having their judgment clouded by anger, bitterness or resentment.

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