When Non Lawyers Give Legal Advice
Getting your divorce information from a person who is not a lawyer is pretty risky behavior. I’m a member of a Facebook group for moms in a prominent local city, and I’ve noticed that there are a lot of requests for legal advice. It’s not a group for family lawyers, so, as you can probably imagine, lots and lots of regular people give their two cents.
I get it. There’s the perception that talking to an attorney is expensive. And, even if it’s not expensive, it’s still scary. I’ve made this analogy before, but it’s a bit like opening Pandora’s Box. You can gab with girlfriends and get information in a way that feels a little more low key than scheduling an appointment with a divorce lawyer. It might feel like too big of a step to take, given where you are in your life. After all, you just want a few quick answers, right?
And, in most cases I’ve seen, the people who ask legal questions in this group get a TON of answers. But, the thing is, a lot of them are wrong – or at least partially wrong. But the thing that, to me, is the most worrisome, is the confidence with which the answers are provided. Just because someone has been divorced before, or because she helped someone with their divorce paperwork, or whatever does not mean that they have the kind of nuanced understanding necessary to really answer comprehensive questions about how the law operates in divorce and custody cases.
I don’t say this to be disparaging; it’s so great how women come together in droves to help each other. The solidarity and support I’ve seen is really, really encouraging. But… the information, in general, leaves a lot to be desired.
Misinformation is not helpful. It’s actually the opposite. I’ve seen some really, really, really, incredibly bad advice on that forum. It’s on both sides of the spectrum, too – women will advise women that they’re not entitled to things that they ARE actually legally entitled to receive, or they’ll make them think that things are going to go worse for them than they actually are. It doesn’t seem like there’s any real rhyme or reason to the advice, or general themes to take away, other than the fact that non lawyers do not have the answers.
When non lawyers give bad advice, and women follow that advice, it’s often to their detriment.
Look, this is important. And you only get one shot. Don’t you want to know that the information you’re being led to believe is actually accurate? Don’t you want to make your decisions, in the beginning of your case and at every point thereafter, based on up to date, Virginia specific information? There’s a lot at stake.
Get your emotional support from your friends, or from random strangers on the internet. Commiserate with other women who are divorcing narcissists or whose husbands suffer from addiction or other mental illness. Reach out to women who’ve been through relocation cases or parental alienation cases and come out better, stronger, happier on the other side. There’s so much about that kind of support that is invaluable, especially if you’re feeling scared and lost and don’t know where to turn.
You should, though, get your divorce and custody advice from divorce and custody attorneys who practice in Virginia. The decisions you make now are too important to rely on well-meaning misinformation. You need accuracy. You need to be able to trust that what you’re hearing is the truth. You need to do what it takes to protect yourself and your children, both now and in the future.
But isn’t it expensive to talk to a lawyer?
I guess it really depends on how you define expensive. To me, losing your children is expensive. Signing an agreement that omits a valuable asset is expensive. Not knowing what you’re entitled to is, in short, expensive. Whether you agree to accept less than you’re entitled to receive under the law, or whether you push for more than you’re entitled to receive (resulting in additional legal fees, risk of sanctions, and, ultimately, receiving less than you bargained for), it’s expensive.
But, yes, of course, meeting with a lawyer carries a cost. In our office, the cost of an initial consultation is $300. That’s for up to an hour with one of our women only attorneys. Then, at that point, a retainer agreement is offered (if appropriate), and a retainer is paid before additional work is done on the case.
It may be that you’re not at the point that you’re ready to hire an attorney to work on your case. Maybe you’re not even really all that comfortable with coming in to ask questions. That’s fine. Everyone moves at their own pace, and there’s no sense in pushing you down a path that doesn’t feel right for where you are today.
You don’t have to come in for a consultation if you just want answers to a couple of questions.
Why not download our free book on divorce? We have a regular book, and a military divorce book, depending on your situation; there’s also a custody version, if you have minor children involved.
The books were written by our divorce lawyers, and answer some of the most common questions we see. They also delve into the law, and explain how it operates, on a fundamental level. It’s more than most husbands know about divorce!
After you’ve read the book, you might also attend one of our monthly divorce seminars. They’re all online, in a webinar format, and you have the option to ask questions directly to one of our attorneys live during the seminar. There’s a cost to attend – just $50 – but it’s pretty nominal, especially considering you know that the information you get will be up to date, Virginia specific, and provided by an attorney who has spent her career representing women exclusively in family law cases. There’s no Facebook group anywhere in the world that has that kind of street cred.
You definitely need information. It’s important. But you also have a responsibility to yourself to make sure that the information you’re getting is good.
You’re not alone. We’re here to help. But please, please don’t go to Facebook first! For more information, or to schedule a consultation, visit our website at hoflaw.com or give us a call at 757-425-5200.
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