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What are the risks of representing myself at a motion hearing?


You’re involved in a family law case and there’s a motion hearing coming up. You have to decide whether to invest in representation. Is it necessary? I mean, who likes to spend money on lawyers? Should you hire a lawyer or can you handle this yourself?

In determining whether you should represent yourself at a motion hearing, the first question is: what’s on the line and what’s it worth to you? As with any other type of legal issue, the lower the stakes, the lower the risk in representing yourself. However, the more there is on the line, the more dangerous it is to go into a motion hearing without representation.

Is there a support issue? Is the issue custody or time with your children? There are certain issues on which it’s important to get an optimal initial temporary order that will give you leverage and put you in a better position to resolve the case favorably.

A signifiant consideration in assessing the risk in representing yourself is that the decision at a motion hearing often serves as a significant precedent in the case. You may hear, “it’s only a temporary order so you an always change it later.” That’s bad advice. A temporary order will often remain in place until the end of the case. And, barring a significant change, the final order is usually very similar to the temporary order.

Therefore, if you walk away from a motion hearing with a bad result, you may be stuck with it for a long time.

For example, if there’s a support issue at stake and there are grounds for arguing that you should receive more or pay less, if you end up with a bad initial order, changing it later on may be very difficult.

Also, if there’s an issue on parenting time, agreeing to a certain schedule at a motion hearing or receiving an unfavorable order from the judge puts you in a hole that can be tough to climb out of. Remember that generally no changes will be made later on unless there’s been a significant change in circumstances.

It’s tempting to try to save money by representing yourself. And in some cases, when the stakes are low, it’s safe. However, if there’s a significant amount of money on the line or time with your children, or any other significant issue that can have a major impact on you long-term, you may want to consider at least seeking the advice of a reliable family law lawyer before you dive into it by yourself.

If you have any questions about motion hearings or any other family law issue, feel free to contact us.

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