How Not Seeking Legal Advice Can Cost You Money

How Not Seeking Legal Advice Can Cost You Money by Fabienne Swartz

{2:35 minutes to read} Not seeking legal advice can be costly…

In recent years, I have heard several accounts of women who decided not to seek legal advice before signing their divorce settlement agreement negotiated in mediation. Without exception, the outcome was a lopsided deal. Others have consulted me stating they were ready to sign but had not yet put pen to paper.

So many contracts are confusing – this is where my knowledge and experience is beneficial to clients, as I can interpret what they are about to sign. Often going over a contract piece-by-piece with a client and having them explain in their own words what they understand to be true is quite eye-opening – they realize the terms are not what they want.

Many times, people believe that they do not need legal advice. They may have had an unfortunate experience with an overpriced lawyer, or they may simply believe that they can get through the process on their own – without realizing that this decision could have very serious consequences. I am always astounded when I see intelligent women willing to settle for less than they deserve because they hope to avoid conflict. In some cases, I have had to plead with them to seek legal counsel.

Case study: One client was having custody/support issues with her ex-husband. She was ready to sign the agreement when I pointed out that it contained no stipulations about sharing child-care expenses or expenses incurred by her child’s participation in extracurricular activities. Taken as a whole, the proposed settlement was confusing and contradictory. Undoubtedly, this would have caused her to lose out on a significant amount of money had she not sought the advice of an attorney.

A review/consulting attorney may require a much smaller retainer than a litigator. They will not be representing you during the mediation process, and typically, they will not go with you to the meetings. The purpose of legal counsel is to give you a baseline – to ensure that you know what is a sound offer and what is not.

If you have already signed an agreement, you may not be able to undo the damage but seeking legal advice can at least help you stand your ground if your ex-spouse begins making unreasonable demands.

Please contact me if you are considering mediation and are not sure how to obtain legal counsel. I will help guide you through the entire process.

Which provisions of your divorce or custody-support agreement need to be amended?

Fabienne Swartz JD (Belgium) CDFATM
Certified Divorce Financial AnalystTM
500 Mamaroneck Av.
Suite 320
Harrison, NY 10528
(914) 798-6940

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