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Two Worst Mistakes People Make in Family Court
The two worst mistakes I’ve seen people make in family court are:
1. Representing yourself.
Many of my clients come to me after they have tried to represent themselves. Colorado tries to make it easy for people to represent themselves: they post the forms and guides on how to handle your case on your own. But filling out a form is one thing. Understanding the law is another.
There are at least three levels of law you have to understand in family court:
a. What the law says about the law. The State legislature is constantly passing and updating Colorado family and divorce law.
b. What Colorado courts have said about the law. Colorado courts interpret the written law. Their interpretation may or may not make sense.
c. What family law judges think about the law. Family law judges have a lot of discretion on what to do with your case. Even if the law says one thing, they have a lot of freedom to interpret how the law applies to your specific case.
2. Getting the wrong attorney.
While having an attorney is usually better than representing yourself, having the wrong attorney won’t do you any good. Attorneys need to be able to research the law and apply it correctly in your case. Not all attorneys put in the time and effort to make sure your case is fully prepared. Some attorneys may want you to fight when you have enough money, but when the money runs out, so does their will to fight.
One way to find a good attorney is to look at their history. If an attorney has a history or service, volunteer work, or working for a bar committee, then chances are the attorney is not simply working for a paycheck. Attorneys who work for the Government, for the poor, or in other jobs usually want to help people first. Many private attorneys left Government or non-profit jobs in order to better serve people without being limited by an organization.
The reason many people decide to go without an attorney is that they feel they cannot afford it. However, they end up losing more when they pay too much or don’t receive enough child support or maintenance or agree to an unfair division of property. The vast majority of my clients have gotten a better deal with my help then when they went on their own.