Technically, anything an attorney does, you can do yourself. However, with an attorney you have someone who has done it over and over again, is imputed with the knowledge of knowing what the statutes say, has knowledge of the process and how to get it done, knows what the court is looking for, knows how likely a court is going to rule in that matter. I often tell people that I had a military couple come in and all they have is their car and wanted to know if they really needed an attorney. I told them that if they were trying to save money, great, and if they wanted to research the process and forms they could likely do it themselves. If they got it wrong all they would lose is some money.
However, in a case where child custody is involved, I tell them that anyone trying to do a custody issue without an attorney is foolish. The ramifications are too extreme. You cannot replace a bad custody order with money. You can earn more money but you cannot replace your time and relationship with your child. The time you lose with your children is lost forever and you cannot get it back. Usually, custody orders are not just simple matters that you can go into court and say that you made a mistake and want it changed. You have to live with the bad decision for a while. Then you have to petition the court and show why it was a bad call and why it has not worked out, and then ask for a modification. After that amount of time, there is a new status quo established. Now you have to beat the status quo and prove to court that it is in the child’s best interest to make that change.
There is also the issue of divorce where there is a large amount of assets or debts. In both cases it is oftentimes incredibly important to have an attorney to help determine how much of the assets belong to each party, how much of the debt belongs to each party, are there any offsets or equalization payments due, what are the values particularly in the cases where one party is 1099 or a self-employed individual. What is their true income? What expenses are they writing off that should be added back in for the purposes of support or property division? The larger the estate, or in the case of a negative asset the more debt there is, the more important it becomes to have somebody who is knowledgeable with the law and the laws regarding property division.