When Should You Contact an Attorney?
That question, along with “do I really need a lawyer?”, is not always answered by a simple “yes” or “no.” The best way to answer that question is by evaluating your circumstances and reviewing several factors.
Hiring a lawyer becomes essential when facing any one or more of the following:
- You Could Go To Jail
- You Are Involved in a Complex Divorce
- You Are In New York Family Court
- Your Opponent Has an Attorney
- You Are Out of Your Depths
You Could Go To Jail
If you are charged with any type of crime. In New York State, “crime” is defined as any misdemeanor or felony offense. These include charges as defined by the New York Penal Law, the Vehicle and Traffic Law and various other statutes. However, in general, if you are facing any charge that can result in you being incarcerated, going on probation, being fined, having an Order of Protection issued against you and/or losing a license of any kind, you should contact a lawyer.
You Are In A Complex Divorce
In New York State, a divorce action is a lawsuit to terminate a marriage. It usually involves matters including assets, debts, insurance, retirement benefits, spousal support (maintenance) and children (custody and support). In addition to these matters, there may be complex legal issues, serious disagreements, and allegations which will need to be addressed. Even if you and your spouse are in agreement, New York Courts often require very specific language in dealing properly with the myriad of items that would have to be included in the settlement documents. When you are a party to a divorce, even an uncontested divorce, it is advisable to hire a lawyer to assist you with the legal process.
You Are In New York Family Court
Similar to New York Divorce Actions, petitions for Child Custody/Visitation, Family Offenses, Child Support, Neglect/Abuse (CPS) are all brought in Family Court. Since all of these cases may involve complex legal issues, financial questions and establishing legal standards, such as the “best interests of the child,” it is a good idea to contact an attorney. Often it is difficult for individuals to advocate clearly and effectively when they are arguing for or defending their rights in cases that could impact their ability to see their own child.
Your Opponent Has an Attorney
Abraham Lincoln famously said, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” While this saying may be true in any context, in any case where your adversary has a lawyer it is especially true. Lawyers are educated, trained and experienced in how to make legal arguments in writing and in court. No matter how much you “think” you may know, it is unlikely that you will have the depth of knowledge and familiarity with the law to deal with every issue that your opponent’s attorney may use against you.
You Are Out of Your Depths
This factor is something that each individual has to evaluate for themselves. It might hinge on emotions, comfort level, experience with legal terms and concepts, access to information, or your ability to express yourself in writing or in person. If you decide, for any reason, that you are in over your head, it’s time to find a lawyer.
Contacting a Lawyer
If any of the above factors apply to your case, or if your case involves other types of legal matters or factors not listed above which lead you to decide that you need a lawyer, it is important to find one who practices in the area of law you need. Generally, legal services do not come cheap. However, the more complicated your legal problem, the more you will need legal advice, and the cost to hire a lawyer is usually worth the peace of mind that comes with having a professional handle your case.
Stephen J. Riebling, Jr. is a criminal defense attorney and partner with Riebling & Payton, PLLC, located in Westchester County, NY and has been practicing for nearly 25 years. To learn more about Mr. Riebling and the firm, visit Riebling & Payton, PLLC at www.RieblingPaytonLaw.com.