Our New Mexico Family Law Attorneys at Jay Goodman & Associates are frequently asked about whether it is necessary to retain an attorney when seeking a divorce. Although there are a fair number of people that choose to go it alone when pursuing a divorce, there are a wide range of reasons that this is ill-advised in most situations.
Aside from the fact that a layperson lacks a clear understanding of his or her legal rights, courtroom rules of evidence and procedure, substantive domestic relations law and experience with how judges rule on specific issues, there is another reason that proceeding without an experienced New Mexico Family Lawyer can turn out badly. The intense emotions of jealousy, anger and loss may cloud one’s judgment. This observation is not limited to just laypeople as a USA Today article recently discussed a contentious divorce between two people who thoroughly understand the legal process. This new report suggests that even those with a clear understanding of the legal system may have their judgment obscured by emotions when pursuing a divorce.
The 17 year divorce of Sharlene and Christo Lassiter is so acrimonious that the fight was recently discussed at length in an article published in the USA Today. These two attorneys clearly understand both their rights and the legal process, yet their divorce has lasted seven years longer than their marriage. To put the duration of this divorce in context, the typical divorce without children can be completed in between six to nine months while a divorce involving child custody and visitation frequently can be completed in a year. The Lassiters are not only lawyers, they are both law professors so one would be hard pressed to find a layperson who has a better understanding of the court system.
This extremely acrimonious divorce has included over 1,400 filings, which is more than triple the typical contested and extensively litigated divorce. According to the USA Today report, several judges that have presided over the case have complained that the parties have repeatedly violated the rules of court even though they understand these rules.
“This court has not seen many domestic relations cases more contentious and acrimonious . . . than this case. The parties, who are both law professors and who ought to know better, engaged in thoroughly inappropriate behavior that was detrimental to the resolution of their case and to the welfare of their children for which both claimed to be primarily concerned,” wrote the judges that heard one of the motions in the case on appeal.
The point of this discussion is not to pass judgment on these parties but to illustrate that even the most informed and knowledgeable people can become involved in extremely acrimonious and protracted legal proceedings in a divorce settings. If these parties who are extremely knowledgeable about the law can become embroiled in divorce proceedings that last 17 years, average people who lack the same understanding of their rights and remedies may be even more at-risk of having their judgments colored by emotions that can result in an unnecessarily protracted and contentious divorce. This is one reason even family law attorneys typically retain a divorce attorney when they seek a marital dissolution because they want an objective advisor whose perspective and judgment is not distorted by the pain and emotions that often accompany the divorce process.
The above information is provided to illustrate general principles of law and should not be interpreted as a specific legal opinion on an individual case. You should contact experienced legal counsel to get specific legal advice that is based upon your specific circumstances.
We invite you to review the other installments in this multi-part article which dispel other common myths about divorce in New Mexico. If you are considering divorce and would like the opportunity to learn about your options, we invite you to speak to an experienced divorce lawyer at our New Mexico Divorce Law Firm. Jay Goodman & Associates offers a free consultation in our centrally located offices in Santa Fe and Albuquerque so that we can discuss your alternatives. Call us today to schedule your free consultation at (505) 989-8117 to learn about your rights and options.