Yes. You need an attorney. I will qualify that by saying that if you are dealing with any kind of family law issue, you need an attorney. You need someone objective, rational and educated in the law looking out for your best interests. You need someone to give you advice about the decisions you’re making. You’ll get lots of free advice from family members, friends, coworkers, drinking buddies, hair stylists, etc. That advice is generally worth what you pay for it. And you’re paying your hair stylist or barber to help with your hair, not give you legal advice.

You need an attorney to explain the legal process to you. Nobody is going to be able to explain the legal process to you like an attorney. It’s what we went to school for and what we do every day. If you were building a house, you wouldn’t just grab some tools and lumber and start slapping things together. You’d have a contractor involved because he or she is the expert in that area. You would decide how much that contractor (and any subcontractors) should be involved based on what you’re building, how knowledgeable you are and your comfort level dealing with things on your own. It’s the same basic idea with hiring an attorney. Your attorney should guide you through the legal process, explaining along the way what’s happening and what to expect next, while keeping your ultimate goal clearly in sight. Legal issues, even those that may seem simple at first, are usually more complicated than they appear, and the process for resolving them is often complicated.

You need an attorney to draft and make sure you understand and correctly execute legal documents. You may have the greatest agreement in the world, but if it’s not written correctly or executed correctly, it may not be worth the paper on which it’s written. My law school contracts professor consistently referred to lawyers as “wordsmiths” and I have always kept that label in mind. When we are preparing agreements, contracts, court pleadings and any other written work, our intention is to make that document as clear and unambiguous as possible, so that anyone reading it would understand exactly what it says. It’s not a skill that most people have been taught and if you execute legal documents without the advice of an attorney, you are taking a risk.

You need an attorney to advise you about possible courses of action and likely consequences. Part of your attorney’s job is to explain what he or she believes may happen if you take certain courses of action. If you do this, then the likely consequences are this, that and the other thing. We’ve seen similar circumstances before and based on our education and experience, can give you our best educated guess at the consequences so you can make informed decisions. Your attorney should help you think through things before you do them. That’s where the “counselor at law” title comes into it.

You need an attorney to tell you when you’re wrong. This may be an attorney’s most vital role and I believe it is their most overlooked role. As your attorney, I am an advisor. That doesn’t mean I’m a “Yes Man.” You don’t have to take my advice, but I’m not going to agree with your way of thinking or your plan of action just because you’re paying me. You’re paying me to give you the best advice I can and then you must decide whether to take my advice.