Can I represent myself in my divorce? The short answer to this question is that yes, legally anyone can handle the process of filing for divorce. When each spouse represents himself or herself in court without a lawyer, it’s called a “pro se divorce”.
However, the more accurate answer is that it all depends on the specific details of your own situation, and what is at stake in the dissolution of your marriage. Pro se divorce generally works in a more straightforward scenario, where both spouses have been working, assets and debts are easily distributed, and both parties are in agreement.
When to File Pro Se
A pro se divorce will work best if as a couple you:
- Can agree to a no-fault, uncontested divorce
- Can agree on legal decision making & a parenting plan that is in your children’s best interest & child support
- Are able to file in a jurisdiction with a summary or simplified divorce procedure
- Have been married for a relatively short time
- Both are currently working
- Both have assets and debts that are easily distributed
- Are satisfied with the division of assets
- Do not expect a settlement from each other
- Agree to waive the right of appeal
- Are able to cooperate together regardless of emotions
When to Hire a Divorce Attorney
If any of the below describes your divorce, however, it is highly recommended that you hire a family lawyer to handle your case.
- One spouse is contesting the divorce. If you know from the beginning that your husband or wife will not willingly agree to a divorce, then you need a lawyer who can walk you through the more complicated process of an uncontested divorce. This will also help to give you emotional distance you will need during a situation that is likely frustrating at best.
- Equitable distribution is insufficient. One spouse may believe he or she is entitled to a greater share of assets than would fall under equitable distribution, and wants to make sure that case is presented in a compelling way in court. An experienced divorce lawyer will be aware of precedence and the circumstances under which this request would be granted.
- You and your spouse have children. When the custody (decision making & parenting time) of any children under 18 is a factor, different rules apply. Should any disagreements come up, you’ll want a lawyer to make sure all requirements have been met, someone who can give you unbiased counsel on your options and the ways in which you can obtain your ideal outcome.
- One spouse has been out of the workforce for a long period of time. If one partner has been the primary wage earner for a great part of the marriage, then it is possible that the at-home spouse will be eligible for spousal maintenance, especially while they build up the skills and work experience necessary to begin a career. You’ll want a lawyer to help be sure all conditions are met and time periods confirmed.
Regardless of the cost, a lawyer can make the complicated process that is most divorces infinitely smoother and progress more quickly. Whatever your motivation for considering a pro se divorce, there’s a reason that so many experienced attorneys have dedicated their practice to family law.
Have questions about the proceedings of your divorce and how pro se would factor in? Contact the offices of Simon Law Group for an initial consultation.