A Smart, Analyitical Approach to the Law
A Smart, Analyitical Approach to the Law
So you have decided to represent yourself in your divorce. That may not be a bad decision, attorneys can sometimes complicate things and in certain situations, do-it-yourself divorce may be the best way to split up without going through needless hassle or expense. This may work out well if you haven’t accumulated many items of value since the marriage began, you rent your marital residence and don’t own any real estate, and you don’t have significant investments including retirement accounts. If you have children that can also be a roadblock to DIY divorce, but if you and your soon-to-be ex agree about visitation and who will be the primary caregiver this issue can be worked around especially if visitation falls into a standard pattern. If any of the above may be an issue, it might be more cost effective in the long term to hire counsel to represent you in your divorce. Otherwise, DIY divorce may be a good option for you, but even if you decide to represent yourself, assistance from an attorney is available to you in your divorce proceeding without actually hiring the attorney to take over representation on your case.
While you may have determined that a do-it-yourself divorce is the way to go, you may still run into some situations that make the execution difficult. Some of those things are as follows:
There is a lot of information out there, both on the internet and from friends or acquaintances. If the information that you are relying on is bad, then it can lead to your pleading being rejected, wasted trips to the court, or orders which can’t be enforced or are invalid altogether. Make sure that you know the source of the information that you are relying on. I’ve known people who have thought that they were getting information from an attorney, when that was just not the case. The ability to ask questions of the person that you are getting information from is helpful in determining the quality of the information.
If you do have friends that are giving you information on your DIY divorce, keep in mind that his or her situation may be radically different from yours, and what they believe is working out well for them, may not be best for you. This is true for a couple of different reasons, first, your friend may just not yet have found out that he has an order that is bad for him, not what he thought he had, or unenforceable. Or, his or her order may be just fine for them, but your situation is different. Even in seemingly minor details, different situations can make an order that is good for one person to be a disaster for another. In other words, be careful.
Common sense is generally a good thing and gets us where we want to be in most situations. While the legal world is not completely void of common sense, it is sometimes more complicated. Direct, simple, honest answers are not always correct ones. The best example of this that I can give you is the reason why I tell my clients who may be accused of a crime not to speak to investigators, at least without an attorney present. It is very easy for someone who is not familiar with the factors or elements of a crime or other negative action to simply and straightforwardly tell an investigator what happened believing that it will clear him, when his or her words actually establish the elements of the offense for the investigator.
Consequences may not be as severe in a divorce, but the principle remains the same. In the legal world, there are terms of art. These words have a particular legal meaning which is sometimes different from what common sense would have you believe they mean. You meant to say This, which is what common sense tells you should mean what your desired outcome is, but the legal interpretation is That, which is far from what you desired. Mistakes about the legal meaning of certain terms can lead to unintended consequences.
Courts cannot provide paperwork for you for your DIY divorce and the Clerk cannot give you help in filling your paperwork out. Assistance in filling out forms for your divorce is considered legal advice and those who work at the courthouse are prohibited from giving legal advice if they are not an attorney, or if they are a neutral (like the Judge) in your case.
Although, there are forms available online and other place, you are responsible as a Pro Se (representing yourself) party for filing the correct forms and filling them out correctly. This can be a huge hurdle in getting the outcome that you desire even if you and the other party are in agreement. Advice from non-attorney friends or from the internet may work out, but again may be incorrect if your situation is different or if you are not understanding legal terms correctly. Also, not all forms that you find on the internet are the proper forms that you need for the pleadings in your case.
IF YOU WANT TO HANDLE YOUR OWN DIVORCE, RICH CAN GIVE YOU ASSISTANCE WITHOUT REPRESENTING YOU ON YOUR CASE. RICH WILL NEVER TRY TO SELL YOU ON HIRING A LAWYER TO REPRESENT YOU IN YOUR DIVORCE, BUT DOES FEEL THAT IT IS HIS DUTY TO INFORM YOU IF HE BELIEVES THAT DIY DIVORCE MAY BE A MISTAKE IN YOUR SITUATION. NEVERTHELESS, RICH CAN MEET WITH YOU AND LISTEN TO YOU DESCRIBE YOUR SITUATION. RICH CAN GIVE YOU ASSISTANCE WITH YOUR DIY DIVORCE WITHOUT TAKING OVER YOUR CASE AS YOUR REPRESENTATIVE. HERE ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT HE CAN DO FOR YOU IF YOU WANT TO HANDLE YOUR OWN DIVORCE:
Rich can help you find the correct forms that you need for your divorce. He can assist you in filling out your paperwork by asking you questions about your situation and what your desires are and helping you interpret the legal language on the forms. Rich can assist you in how to file your DIY divorce, what steps to take next, in understanding waiting periods and other requirements.
If you have been sent, whether served by a process server or not, documents concerning a possible divorce, Rich can assist you in helping you determine what your rights and responsibilities are if you are handling the divorce yourself. Certain legal actions taken by the other party can trigger the beginning of a time period in which some action may be required of you to avoid a judgment detrimental to you, while at the same time others require no action from you, and taking action during this time can land you into a suit that you did not have to be in. Rich can help you determine if any action is required by you due to what you have received, and answer questions for you about the consequences of taking or not taking action.
Rich can assist you in Mediation and help you determine the pros and cons of any proposed agreement and what happens if you don’t come to an agreement in mediation. If you do come to an agreement in mediation, Rich can help you make sure the working of the agreement reads as you intended it to read and assist you with the follow through to make sure that the agreement is put into a legally binding document.
In some cases it may need to cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to get divorced if there is a lot of property to divide and complicated issues as to the property division and involving children. In that case, it may be smarter to spend that money attempting to come to an intelligent agreement through collaborative divorce rather than traditional litigation.
However, in the case where there is little to divide and anticipated agreement on most issues it make little sense to spend a lot of money getting divorced. In that case, DIY divorce may be a great option. DIY does not mean that you have to do it all without any assistance. The law is sometimes complicated and seeking some assistance with your understanding of the law, figuring out what is required, coming to an agreement, figuring out what that agreement means, and making sure that you have a document with the legal effect that you wanted, are all things that you can get help with while still maintaining control and responsibility for your own divorce.
If you are considering DIY divorce and have some questions about what assistance Rich can provide for you, then contact our office to set up a consultation.
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