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Why You Need an Attorney
It is quite common for divorce matters in Georgia to be resolved with each party entering into a mutually acceptable agreement reached during mediation, negotiation or some other alternative dispute resolution catalyst, without the necessity of going to trial. However, not every matter will be resolved via a Settlement Agreement, especially matters that involve complex issues and facts or matters that are particularly contentious. Because the matters that tend to proceed to trial are often the most legally and factually complex, it is imperative for parties to complex divorce matters to be represented by legal counsel to ensure all legal issues are appropriately addressed, all procedural rules are adhered to, and the court is presented with all relevant evidence clearly and concisely. Although undertaking the divorce process and proceeding to trial without an attorney may be attractive to some due to the expense associated with hiring an attorney, failing to have legal representation at trial may be more costly. This is so because divorce trials resolve very important issues such as child custody, child support, alimony and property division, and it is often very difficult and extremely costly to modify an unfavorable Final order or resolve and remedy any mistakes made at trial.
Although undertaking the divorce process and proceeding to trial without an attorney may be cheaper intially, failing to have legal representation at trial may be more costly in the long run.
With this being said, for those pondering the question “Should I hire an attorney for my Georgia divorce trial?” below are several reasons why it is absolutely essential to be represented by a Georgia divorce attorney at trial.
A divorce attorney will defend against costly mistakes
There is one main reason why individuals who endeavor to represent themselves during their divorce trail make mistakes: navigating the legal system is difficult for those who are not accustomed to it, and the stress of divorce only compounds that difficulty. Divorce law and procedure is multifaceted and extremely complex. Thus, individuals who represent themselves commonly make legal and procedural mistakes that may cause financial harm or mistakes that may require additional legal proceedings to correct. Divorce attorneys are intimately familiar with divorce law, the issues that must be addressed to successfully litigate a divorce matter, the local judges and attorneys, and any local court procedures that must be followed. The experience and expertise that a Georgia divorce attorneys have navigating the legal system will ensure that the result at trial will be fair, equitable and legally founded.
A divorce attorney will avoid lengthy delays
Although it is possible for unrepresented parties to use court provided documents to file for divorce and prepare for trial, unrepresented individuals often face problems properly completing these forms and providing adequate information and documentation to the court. If certain documents, like parenting plans, child support addenda and child support worksheets and schedules are not properly completed before submission to the court, the court may reject these documents resulting in a delay in the court’s final ruling. Hiring an attorney will ensure the correct preparation of these documents and all other legal documents necessary to prepare for and proceed to trial, and thus avoid inconvenient and costly delays.
A divorce attorney has the experience to adequately prepare for trial
There are several stages in the divorce process. First, the divorce must be initiated by filing a Complain for divorce and serving the complaint and accompanying document on the Respondent. Next, the Answer must be drafted and submitted to the court. After the Complaint and Answer have been filed, both parties may submit any necessary motions to the court and serve discovery requests on the opposing parties. After discovery requests have been served, the parties may also engage the service of certain experts such as business valuators or private investigators to help uncover evidence and to aid with the presentation of evidence at trial. Even if this process goes smoothly, it is extremely complex and stressful. In the midst of coping with the emotional toll that comes along with divorce, caring for children, working and handling everyday life, the added stress of attempting to learn Georgia divorce law, contact experts, prepare and respond to pleadings and discovery, and prepare for a divorce trial is an extremely daunting and often insurmountable task. Engaging the aid of a Georgia divorce attorney will eliminate this additional stress, because the divorce attorney will handle the divorce process and all the legal work associated with it from start to finish. Experienced divorce attorney have extensive knowledge of Georgia divorce law, the divorce process and the legal procedures that must be adhered to, and the tools, resources and professional contacts necessary to adequately prepare for trial.
A divorce attorney has the knowledge to clearly communicate with the Court
There is a language that attorneys and unrepresented parties must use to effectively communicate with the court during trial. This language is called the Georgia Rules of Evidence. See O.C.G.A. § 24-1-1 et seq. Among several other things, the rules of evidence dictate if and when certain articles of evidence may be submitted to the court and how a witness’s testimony may be presented to the court. In matters where parties who are unfamiliar with the rules of evidence seek to represent themselves at trial, it may be difficult for the court presiding over the matter to understand or value the relevance of a certain argument or piece of evidence the unrepresented party is seeking to assert. This in turn may result in the court excluding this evidence or coming to a determination that is adverse to that party. The assistance of an attorney will ensure evidence and witnesses are presented to the court accurately, and that each argument is clearly communicated with the court.