Why You Should Think Twice About Representing Yourself in a Divorce
All you know is you want out. When it comes to a bad marriage, that’s generally the chief objective. However, there is something important you should know. You really need to think twice about representing yourself in a divorce. Otherwise, the losses you suffer could far outweigh what you pay an experienced family law attorney in retainer fees.
To begin with, if you decide to file for divorce without the assistance of an attorney, you are known as a pro se plaintiff. Meanwhile, if your spouse sues you for divorce and you represent yourself– you are a pro se defendant.
Keep in mind that the latter does not necessarily imply that you decided to ignore the divorce complaint altogether. Failing to file an answer to a divorce complaint means that you figure you’ll just disregard it entirely. Frankly, that could result in consequences you won’t like at all.
Why Hire Divorce Counsel
The internet offers a plethora of forms for those who consider representing themselves. Meanwhile, local courthouse libraries often have packets of information available for completion. It might seem as simple as filling in a few blanks and waiting for the judge to sign the divorce decree.
If you were married only a couple of days and had no assets or children, self-representation may work for you. However, there are many concerns that may exceed your knowledge if you’re considering a pro-se divorce. Among them are the following:
- Court Procedures and Timelines: First, not all online documents are updated on a regular basis. Additionally, you may miss filing required paperwork if you do things on your own. For example, this could mean failing to ensure that your pleadings include a Certification of Non-Military Service if appropriate. Other documents are also requisite– as are fees. Of course, there’s also the issue of deadlines.
- Child Custody and Parenting Time: While it’s certainly admirable if you and your spouse have worked out child custody and parenting time, the court still needs to approve your agreement. The judge is required to act in the best interests of your child – even if that is contrary to your thought process.
- Equitable Distribution: When it comes to dividing assets, it’s not just about splitting your real estate holdings, bank accounts or household items. Meanwhile, equitable doesn’t necessarily equate to equal. If either you or your spouse has saved towards retirement, distribution of your pension and/or 401K is a critical concern. And, things can get complicated when it comes to determining the value and division of a business.
- Spousal Support: Alimony, or spousal support represents an example of evolving laws. It’s not up to your spouse’s attorney to advise you of the change over the past few years. There are different options available, and it is critical that you understand the meaning of each.
- Settlement Documents: One of the goals for most divorce cases involves both parties entering into a settlement agreement. There’s certainly a chance that you won’t have the skills to draft one. Are you ready to rely on your spouse’s legal counsel when it comes to putting together language that protects your interests?
Truth be told, most divorce matters settle without the need for trial. For those that do, coming face to face with an attorney advocate can be daunting. At the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone, we not only offer you the benefit of experienced legal counsel. We give you the advantage of running things past someone who is on your side. Contact us to schedule an appointment.