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My Ex Is Using the Attorney That I’m Paying For!

By Amy A. Edwards

The Attorney Client Relationship

Clients can be resentful that their attorney is wasting time dealing with the pro se person. In most family law cases, each person has an attorney. When the other person is pro se, Latin for representing himself or herself, lawyers aren’t working for the pro se person and charging you for it as clients sometimes think. That is prohibited. An attorney may represent only one person in a family law case, such as a divorce or child custody case. Failure to do that is usually a conflict of interest. That means what is good for one person might be a bad thing for the other person. For example, if one spouse gets alimony that’s a good thing for him or her, but it is might be a bad thing for the other spouse. The lawyer has to choose one person or the other as a client.

What’s Different?

If your ex had an attorney, your attorney would have to talk with the other about settlement, discovery (documents, etc.), trial matters, and logistics of court events such as depositions. In other words, your attorney would still be taking time to talk with the other attorney. It doesn’t always take more time than it would to negotiate with an attorney. In fact, some people without attorneys are anxious to get down to business instead of posturing the way other attorneys will because they want to avoid court.

The Law and Equality

The law requires everyone to be treated in the same way, regardless of whether they have an attorney or not. The same deadlines, rules, laws and other requirements apply to both sides. In the eyes of the law, people shouldn’t be penalized if they cannot afford an attorney. But the judge is still bound by the law. Judges have to walk a fine line in these cases. Attorneys also have to be very careful when communicating with a pro se person. We certainly can’t give them legal advice but sometimes we do explain the reasons why the offer we are making on behalf of our client is a good one. Depending on the circumstances, the attorney will tell the pro se person that he or should talk with an attorney.

Same Rules as Everyone Else But . . .

Attorneys have specific things they need to prove in court, based on what the law requires in each situation. But in court, judges sometimes give pro se people a little leeway when they testify and present their side of the case because if they were held to a strict standard they probably wouldn’t be able to say much at all. More often than not, the pro se person usually just wants the judge to hear what they want and why they want it. In a democracy, it is important for all citizens to have the right to their day in court. It’s especially important for parents who are in child custody cases to be heard because the judge must award child custody to one or both parents based on what the judge believes is in the child’s best interest, regardless of whether the parent is represented by an attorney.

Amy A. Edwards is a family law attorney in Greenville, NC, certified by the NC State Bar Board of Legal Specialization as a Family Law Specialist, and is licensed only in NC.        www.AmyEdwardsFamilyLaw.com © 2018.

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