I get a lot of calls from people who want to hire us after they have already filed a case themselves. In many of these cases, they’ve already tried to navigate the court system for a while and they’re now contacting an attorney because they’ve reached a brick wall or they know they’ve screwed up somewhere and they’re looking for someone to fix it.
Here’s an example:
Father calls about a custody case that he’s litigating with the Mother. The child spends equal time with both Father and Mother even though the Father and Mother have separated and live in separate households. The Father has already filed a case on his own and been to court once. The first time he’s in court, he doesn’t understand the process and doesn’t understand his rights. They send him to the Probation department and the Mother claims that the Father has a criminal history so he should be denied parenting rights. The Probation officer relays this message from the Mother to Father and because Father doesn’t know who the Probation officer is and that the Probation Officer does not have the right to force Father to sign anything – Father signs an agreement saying that Mother has full custody. Several weeks later, he realizes he might have made a mistake and calls a lawyer.
The problem is, there’s not much I can do for the Father when he calls. He’s already signed a full agreement and there’s no real appeal because he agreed to it. He didn’t understand that he didn’t have to sign everything that’s placed in front of him and that if he didn’t understand, he could hire an attorney to represent him.
But an attorney can only do so much. Sometimes we can’t turn back the hands of time and fix something that was already done in a case.
The moral of the story is that if there is a lot at stake (divorce, property division, children, alimony, etc), contact a family law attorney to help from the start so that your case can be done right from the start. Sometimes, there are no second chances.