Do-it-yourself divorce sounds enticing, but is riddled with risks
Spouses who represent themselves could end up hurting themselves
Many people going through a divorce decide to represent themselves, a process that’s called going pro se. Pro se divorce is usually opted for out of financial considerations. Many people assume that by not hiring an attorney they will save money on legal fees. However, as Lantana Living recently showed, pro se divorce is extremely risky and people could end up paying a lot more in the long run if they decide not to rely on an experienced family law attorney.
No special privileges
Pro se divorce is becoming very common, especially when it comes to divorce and other family law matters. While most pro se litigants are trying to save money, others also think that only they have the skills and motivation to handle their own divorce cases. Television shows and movies also often give people the sense that representing oneself in court is relatively easy.
However, even the simplest divorce will require some technical knowledge of the law and of court procedures. It is important to realize that pro se litigants do not get treated any differently than attorneys in divorce court and they are subject to the same rules and procedures as everybody else. Judges will not give people any special privileges just because they are not aware of the rules and technicalities. Furthermore, judges are not permitted to give legal advice, meaning there is nobody to help pro se litigants understand what the normal procedures are during a divorce case.
Failing to know how courts function, what documents are required, or what the rules are can leave a pro se litigant at an extreme disadvantage, especially if the other spouse does have an attorney representing him or her. When it comes to dividing marital property, for example, some assets, like retirement accounts and stock options, can be particularly complex and will require in-depth knowledge of how these assets are divided in Texas. Failing to divide these assets fairly the first time can leave spouses with few options, especially since once a divorce order is finalized it is extremely difficult to reverse or modify.
Also, as KRIS-TV News reports, some spouses may be tempted by cheap assistance offered online for people going through a DIY divorces. In one case, a woman was offering help on Craigslist for preparing and completing divorce forms for people who did not have an attorney. While the cheap rate offered, just $65 to $95, seemed enticing, further analysis showed that the woman was not registered with the Better Business Bureau. Furthermore, the services she was offering, which may have been considered legal advice by some judges, may even have been illegal, further compromising the interests of any person who may have relied on her services to complete their divorce.
Spouses who are tempted to represent themselves in their divorce should think very carefully before doing so. While pro se divorce might look cheap at first glance, the risks can end up costing spouses a lot more than they bargained for. In order to ensure a divorce is handled professionally and efficiently, an experienced family law attorney should be relied upon. A qualified attorney can use his legal expertise to make sure his client’s interests are represented and protected throughout the divorce process.