Divorce is always an emotional activity that leaves hearts shredded to pieces and also breaks a family apart. The whole divorce process can also be very tiresome and can extend for many months, thereby draining a lot of energy of the couple. Nowadays, getting a divorce without the help of a lawyer is gaining popularity owing to high divorce costs, prolonged court hearings and numerous legalities associated with divorce. For couples who are in mutual agreement on the divorce settlement, divorce without hiring an attorney seems to be a blessing in disguise as they don’t have to go through the tedious process of divorce in court hearings.
In simple terms, when you plan to divorce without the help of an attorney, it means you are representing yourself throughout the proceedings without the assistance of a lawyer. You are, in fact, your own lawyer, representing yourself. This type of divorce is also known as Pro se divorce. Reasons behind the popularity of Pro se divorce are having no faith in the legal system, can’t afford an attorney, can handle the case themselves or there is mutual consent between the spouse regarding child custody, division of property and so on.
Pros of Pro Se Divorce:
Nowadays it is possible to file for divorce without the help of anyone as all divorce advice and forms required in a divorce case are available online. You can even find the divorce papers online for free, fill them out online, and file according to instructions. Some of the pros of divorce without hiring an attorney:
- It is true that you know all the facts about your married life and the reason behind divorce decision, and therefore you can represent yourself in a better way in your divorce case. Also it has been found that at times, divorce attorneys forget some important details and this impacts the court hearing. But when you represent yourself, you know more of the facts and there is no chance of forgetting or misleading.
- Another advantage of Pro se is the cost factor. When you hire a divorce attorney, you need to pay a few hundred dollars per hour. If you case is takes longer time then you need to make more payments. Some people simply choose to avoid paying legal fees by representing their divorce case by themselves.
- If you don’t have any children or there is less property for division, your divorce case becomes too simply. In such situations your divorce case can be easily represented by you. There is no need to go into the complexities of finding an attorney and the process of hiring an attorney.
- The benefit of Pro se divorce is higher in situations where neither of you wish to contest the terms of the divorce and have reached a mutual agreement on how your assets will be divided and other issues. Your divorce case can be solved by means of a marital settlement agreement.
- The whole process involved in Pro se divorce is less emotional. When two parties mutually agree on different aspects divorce settlement, there is no chance of display of tempers and open rage inside the courtroom. If you have children, then it will better for all if the divorce process is tension free as much as possible. Nobody wants to make their children suffer unnecessary.
- Another benefit of planning to follow Pro se divorce is that it can give you experience that can be useful in future years. With the lessons learnt here you can actually become a divorce consultant at a later stage.
- Depending on the complexities of your divorce, it can stretch for even more than 2 years. During this time, your divorce attorney will be just billing you. In such conditions, your decision to represent yourself in the court can be too good for you.
Cons of Pro Se Divorce:
Just like a coin has got two sides, a Pro se divorce has many disadvantages too.
- First, when you represent yourself you become biased. It is easy to overlook many details and miss the bigger picture. You always believe that you are right and your opponent can take advantage of that point.
- If you don’t have any legal background, training or experience, the legal system can be overwhelming. At times you can find yourself in a confused state of mind not knowing what to do and how to proceed with your divorce case. The average person will have a harder time understanding the legal system unless there is someone to guide them.
- Understanding a legal procedure needs plenty of time and unless you have a lot of time on your hands and want to read many legal rules and cases, it is best to hire an experienced divorce lawyer to represent you.
- A judge makes his decisions based on the law and the rules of court. So if you fail to represent yourself in a proper manner in the courtroom, the judge can make a decision that is not at all in your favor.
- Without the guidance of a lawyer, your divorce process can become end up taking a whole lot longer as compared to if you had opted for a lawyer. The costs associated with hiring a lawyer might look high at first but the speed at which the case is handled might lead to minimal representation fees.
- Due to the lack of knowledge about numerous documents and legalities necessary in the court rooms, the divorce process can becomes complex without the advice of experts. This will ultimately result in wastage of court’s time and other resources.
- No matter what, divorce attorneys are professionals and they understand the intricacies of court rooms far better than any layman. Also attorney makes the entire process methodical and simpler. This cannot be possible when you plan to represent yourself in your divorce case.
To get benefitted from Pro se divorce process, there are certain conditions that must be fulfilled:
- Both parties must file for the Pro Se divorce, instead of one opting for a lawyer and the other choosing the do-it-yourself divorce.
- None of the parties can be in military.
- Both parties must not question any demands from the other party (uncontested divorce), and they both must agree to the terms set by each other.
- The couple must have no children, or if there are children, they should be of legal age and must not be connected with the case.
- There should be no additional charges filed such as debts, bankruptcy, physical abuse, mental abuse and so on.
- Both parties must also be financially able to sustain themselves after the divorce so that there is no discussion about financial support to the other party, such as alimony.
- No investment such as deposits, stock, retirement or pension options must be present for either party.
- If the couple has common assets, they should reach an agreement regarding the division of these assets.
- Never make the mistake of opting for Pro se against a high powered attorney. It may seem like you’re saving money in the short term, but this is likely to lose you everything.
- If you don’t hire an attorney to handle your divorce and your spouse plans to hire an attorney then you can be a great mess. Whilst not hiring an attorney will inevitably save you money, it could result in unfair judgment in regards to child maintenance, other support payments and division of assets.
To conclude, before opting for divorce without hiring a lawyer, it is important to understand that the legal system is simply too complicated for the average person to handle on their own. Always remember that representing a divorce case, understanding the legal issues and making a fair settlement is not at all an easy task.