Just yesterday, I had a gentleman come into my office stating that he had a very simple task. One of his children is aged out, is no longer a minor, and child support should not have been paid for that child anymore. But for some reason, his original lawyer did not put down that when you start with three children, he would pay a certain amount, then when one child ages out, it goes down to a lower amount, which is what’s actually required now. But this case was much older, and the lawyer did not have specifications for how much a child support would be with three children, and then two children, and then one child. One of the children reached the age of maturity and is no longer eligible for child support, so this fellow, on his own, just filed what he thought was a simple petition to modify it. He came in and explained to me what the nightmare that happened because he did it on his own and it wasn’t done properly.
This was a very intelligent gentleman. It’s like anything else. You really need to have a professional guide you in areas that you don’t understand. I don’t work on electricity in my house because I don’t really understand it. When it comes to modification, or anything involving the courts, it’s always best to see a lawyer that’s experienced in your area of the law. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at settlement agreements or final judgments where a lawyer who’s not well-versed in family law represented one party, and sometimes it’s just painful to look at. Family law is interesting because in Florida, when you’re dealing with family law, we actually have self-help desk or area in the courthouse where it’s actually more geared towards people representing themselves.
In fact, we even have forms that are available from the courthouse to help individuals who are self-represented. The courts and the legislature in the state of Florida have given, or have published, the tools for a self-represented party go through this on their own, and there’s really nothing to prevent somebody can do it on their own. If it’s a simple matter and they think that they can handle it, that’s fine, because there are self-help desks out there and there are tools that are available. However, in my experience, when that does not really work well, both parties spend much more money fixing something that was messed up because they didn’t have a lawyer to help them out in the first place. It would be as if I did some electrical work in my house, and I caused much more damage than there was originally. I would be much better off hiring an electrician at the beginning.
But again, there are forms out there for individuals to represent themselves. Florida is a state where we understand that not everybody can afford a lawyer, and we put the tools out there for people that want to be self-represented to go out there and do that in any courthouse in the state of Florida. There will be somebody there that will help you if you are self-represented. The laws are very complicated, and they are subject to changes daily. Alimony and parenting laws are being changed by the legislature constantly. So it’s always advisable to speak with a lawyer who is experienced in family law matters. I am board-certified in family law, and this is what I do.
I spend all my work days working on family law. There are other good lawyers out there, but it’s important that you speak with not only just a lawyer, but also a lawyer who understands family law issues. It’s a very specific area of the law, and the issues involve the well-being and future of your children. Additionally, because all your finances are dependent upon what happens in family court, it’s not the best area to gamble with self-representation.
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