When you’re already overwhelmed with whatever life issue is coming at you at the moment, it can be hard to know where to turn. Maybe you’re going through a bad divorce, and it just seems like no matter what you do or how hard you try to negotiate, you and your soon to be ex-spouse can’t seem to agree on anything anymore. Or, you were in a nasty car wreck and sustained some injuries and you have no idea who to turn to or what to do about your rising medical bills.

Deciding when to go get professional legal advice can be really hard. For some, it is the cost that holds us back. You might even know that you desperately need some legal help, but you can’t afford to pay for it. For others, the situation at hand is taking up all of your available brain power, and you haven’t even thought about asking for outside help because you’re too consumed with the immediate problem. Regardless of your situation, there are a few different times when getting legal advice is really important, and shouldn’t be put off.

When you need to sign a contract

How many times have you clicked that “I agree” button at the end of scrolling through pages and pages of text without reading a single sentence of it? Installing a new app, or getting a new piece of technology like a computer or fitness watch, all probably require you to agree to a contract like this, and we truly have no idea what we’re agreeing to.

While you can probably get away with ignoring these types of contracts, although you really should be reading the fine print, there are others you really can’t. Any contract that could result in a huge loss to you personally or to your business, has a timeline that must be followed for whatever reason, or when it is critical that the contract details are followed, should have a lawyer present both at signing and to review the contract with you. If you are the one creating the contract, a lawyer should also help you in writing it to make sure you haven’t left anything out, and that the contract is binding. A lawyer is the expert here, and will make sure you are doing exactly what you need.

If you’ve sustained an injury   

If you’ve been injured in an accident, at work, or in a business, you will likely not need an attorney if the injury wasn’t too serious. However, if the injury is severe, permanent, or seriously affects your ability to live or work, you likely will need an attorney to help you through any litigation.

If you are injured at work, chances are your employer has some sort of workers compensation set up for situations like this, such as ACC in New Zealand. If your employer is not following ACC practices and not allowing you to go through the next steps to cover your injury, they likely are not following the employment law for this situation, and a lawyer can help guide you through next steps. You may be owed compensation or funds to cover your medical bills.  

If there is a divorce and child custody involved

Depending on the state of your marriage and the communication level with your ex spouse, you could definitely get a divorce without needing legal representation. If you and your ex partner can agree on the terms of the divorce, and are happy with the outcomes, considering the situation, then you should be able to go through the proceedings on your own.

However, if the terms are unfair, don’t represent both sides well, and your ex and you are not coming to any resolution or middle ground, it might be time to get a lawyer. If your ex already has legal representation, you’ll also want to bring representation to level the playing field. If children are involved, and child custody is on the table and you aren’t getting the custody rights that you want and need to see your children, this is absolutely the time to call up a lawyer.   

If there’s a potential for jail time

This one is pretty obvious, but is often overlooked. If whatever your situation is may end up in any type of jail time, even in the worst possible case scenario, you absolutely need legal representation. Do your research on your case to see if there is a possibility, no matter how remote, for jail time. Even in the most remote chance, it’s still a chance, and if you’re like most people, jail time could potentially ruin your life.  

If you need comprehensive estate planning  

Writing a will is one thing, but planning the distribution of your estate is a totally different one. Writing a simple will to distribute your assets can often be done on your own, or with the help of a will kit. A full estate, however, with complicated assets and multiple distributions, perhaps reliant on different situations at the time of passing, can be messy.

A lawyer will help you make sure you’ve taken into account all these complications, and make sure that you’re following the law as well. They are an objective voice to your nonobjective mind, and will help you see clearly through the muddle of estate planning.

While yes, lawyers are expensive and it takes some effort tracking the right kind down, it’s incredibly important that you do for these above reasons. Lawyers are there to help you with complicated life issues, and usually the issues that can seriously impact your life or your family’s life. Don’t mess around with these issues trying to fix it on your own, if there’s any chance of losing something important to you, or not getting the help you need. The cost may be impressive, but getting the right results is so much more important.

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