Why Can’t I Represent Myself?

2.23.17

You absolutely can represent yourself in your divorce proceedings and subsequent visits to the court. Many people do represent themselves, hiring mediators and negotiating directly with their soon-to-be-ex spouse. You may look at representing yourself as a way to save money on your divorce, but it’s necessary to see how one stumbling block can undo any immediate cost savings, and indeed can affect your financial future. Here are three situations where hiring a lawyer first is the smart move.

1) We mentioned a smooth, amicable divorce above, and if that’s your situation then you are lucky and have the envy of many divorcees. However, if you are mired in a contested divorce – a separation where one or both spouses dispute details of the breakup – you should have a lawyer on your side. Especially if your spouse has legal representation already. An attorney can help with strategy and planning, making sure that you have all of your facts and supporting documents lined up. This may sound like an easy proposition but in the emotional turmoil of a divorce, it is easy to overlook or forget important aspects of your case.

2) Even if the initial divorce goes well, that doesn’t mean that you won’t have disputes with your ex going forward. If you need to seek a modification in your divorce, hiring an attorney is almost a necessity. Managing the necessary paperwork is only a small detail of filing to change part of your divorce settlement. There are many baseline requirements needed by the court when submitting for a modification and an experienced lawyer will be have the experience to address those up front. If you try to represent yourself, you will need to learn all of these on your own time. The court is not there to help you stumble through your case. If you don’t come prepared, your motion will be denied and you may need to hire a lawyer anyway.

3) As mentioned above, the courtroom is not the place to learn the legal system. The judge overseeing your case may take pity on you, but they may not. Prior to your case, you have the chance to research and hire an attorney who is an expert in family law and navigating the courts. You should look for a lawyer who has experience with the culture and pace of the jurisdiction where your case will be tried. A local attorney will have a much greater chance at success than a lawyer from another county, and especially more success than you working the case alone.

There is enough to worry and wonder about when getting a divorce without having to then teach yourself how to file the case and keep track of everything. Representing yourself is an option, but it may not be the best option for your situation. Contact an attorney for a free consultation about the specifics of your case and what makes the most sense for you.