I recently broke my arm in a spectacular mountain biking mishap. After hitting the ground like a plane crash, I looked at my arm and noticed that, well, something was really out of place. Sparing you the gruesome details, it did not look like the same arm I had had for 34 years.

After the initial shock of realizing that I am a mere mortal like everyone else, I immediately knew I was in dire need of help: an ambulance, a doctor, an expert. I knew that I was not equipped, emotionally or physically, to deal with what was now obviously very necessary. True, I could try to pop my elbow back into place myself, or examine myself to determine whether or not it was broken, “prescribe” myself medication and a physical therapy regime. Perhaps this would save me a lot of money. After all, you know how expensive doctors can be. Ultimately, however, I decided that I only have one left arm, and it was too important to take any chances.

Family law attorneys are not equipped to deal with broken arms. Good ones, however, are can deal with emergencies of the soul. We cannot prescribe medication to ease the pain of a difficult divorce or child custody situation, but we can diagnose the problem and advise you on how to proceed legally. However, many people who would have no qualms about going to the hospital in a medical emergency, attempt to bypass the appropriate response to equally dangerous threats to the well being of children or one’s financial future. Even those with knowledge of Colorado family law are emotionally unequipped to make the tough, rational decisions necessary to protect themselves. The wrong decision may have unanticipated lifelong consequences. Broken lives, like broken arms, need to be set properly to heal right.

WHEN “SELF HELP” IS NOT HELP

All District Courts in the Denver Metropolitan Area have self-help centers, in which those who wish to proceed without the advice of a qualified attorney can obtain all the forms necessary to file their petitions and submit parenting plans and separation agreements to the Court. Those utilizing such services hope to avoid the admittedly high cost of legal representation.

All too often, however, attorneys see clients whose rights have been impacted because of the unclear or vague language in the forms provided by those centers, or scrawled on the page by parties who were unable to anticipate the consequences. Critical details are often missing, and at times, it is impossible to determine what a pleading actually means. The unfortunate result is that people are later forced to retain an attorney to clean up the mess and/or litigate the matter at a cost far exceeding that which they would have incurred with good advice at the outset.

To continue the analogy, the bones had not been set improperly, and far more extensive --- and expensive --- surgery was required to put things right. Like so many times in life, the shortcut turned out to be the long way home.

The moral of the story is that if your children, your property, your money, and your sanity are important to you, treat them as such. Seek the advice of an attorney for legal emergencies. Most likely, you will find that it was money well spent.