We think that hiring a lawyer experienced in the practice of family law and divorce is a wise decision.
Throughout the New Bedford, Fall River, Taunton areas, and all across Bristol County, we at the Law Office of Bardsley and Gray offer experienced, aggressive and caring representation for all Probate and Family Court matters. Our lawyers are active in Plymouth County, Brockton and in Norfolk County as well.
We handle abuse prevention cases, restraining orders, contempt cases, modification cases, litigation, alternative dispute resolution, divorce; child support, custody, alimony, grandparent visitation cases, prenuptial agreements, separate support and paternity case and a wide range of Probate and Family Law cases. We also have experience in helping clients in adoption cases, guardianship and conservatorship cases, equity cases, name change petitions, and mental health law.
Listed below are some of the kinds of questions we help clients resolve.
Question: Am I required to have a lawyer in my family law case?
Answer: In any civil case; including family law cases; you have a right to represent yourself. The term used is sometimes “pro se”. Be aware that the court will hold you to the same standards as it does for lawyers. The judge is not allowed to help you or give you advice. Neither are court employees.
While you are entitled to represent yourself, there is a somewhat rough, but accurate statement you may hear about pro se litigants: “One who represents him or herself in a legal matter has a fool for a lawyer.” This old saying is meant to warn potential “pro se” litigants that without a good lawyer, they are likely to achieve a bad, even disastrous result in their case. You may have been the smartest person in your school, but if you are not a surgeon, would you operate on your own hand? The same logic applies to legal matters. Leave that work to the professionals.
First, if you have little to no experience in family court, you are likely to make serious errors that are difficult or impossible to fix. For example, once a divorce judgment has entered, property division cannot be revisited by the court, except if you can prove in a separate civil action your spouse committed fraud and purposely hid property that should have been divided. Competent counsel will help ensure that there is full and fair disclosure of assets and income.
The second reason is that you are emotionally vested in the outcome of the case. Your relationship with your children, your livelihood and property; all will change dramatically in a family law case. Even lawyers hire counsel to represent them. They understand it is probably not possible to maintain the objectivity and calm demeanor needed when you are dealing with your spouse and the court.
Question: What if my spouse hires a lawyer. Can I represent myself?
Answer: Yes, but it is not advisable for the same reasons as exist when both parties are pro se. Your spouse has an objective, competent advocate representing his or her interests and you do not. You may certainly go forward and trust they will not exploit that advantage. However, opposing counsel know the rules better than you do. They are not required or even permitted to disclose things that would benefit their client but be detrimental to your interests.
Question: Can one lawyer represent both of us?
Answer: No. The courts do not allow one lawyer to represent opposing parties in a family law – or any court case.