What are the Dangers of Representing Yourself in a Divorce?
Many individuals believe that it would be both cheaper and faster to represent themselves in their divorce proceeding as opposed to hiring a divorce attorney. This is called representation “pro se.” This blog discusses some of the most critical dangers for representing yourself “pro se” in your divorce.
First, in contrast to popular opinion on that matter, representing yourself without an attorney is more expensive and time-consuming in the long run. The time and expense—not to mention the emotional burden—of trying to learn about the divorce process can be exhausting and waste valuable time, which means valuable money. In the long run, the attorneys’ fees are likely to cost much less than the costs of proceeding “pro se.” A divorce attorney is also more likely to finalize the divorce quicker than an individual without an attorney. Further, when individuals represent themselves, they are likely missing critical arguments or settlement techniques that could be beneficial for their case—something that an attorney who is skilled in divorce proceedings would never miss. Such inadvertent mistakes and oversights could be devastating for the individual’s divorce resolution and end up costing them more time and expense.
Second, going “pro se” makes it more likely for you to get emotional and defensive. If you are trying to negotiate your case before your spouse and their attorney or are trying to litigate your case before a judge, you are literally arguing in favor of yourself. If there are contentious issues in your case, it may be very hard to maintain your composure and civility, especially before the court. Any display of negative emotions or manifestations of an uncooperative or uncivil attitude may affect the outcome of your divorce resolution to your detriment. Hiring an attorney comes in handy for this problem because an attorney will not be emotionally charged when arguing in your favor—whether outside of court during settlement negotiations or in litigation before the court. A divorce attorney is experienced in making you appear rationalized, amicable, and open to fair and streamlined negotiations.
Third, it is harder to be rational and make informed decisions about the issues in your divorce. Divorce is a stressful event that may cause you to make quick decisions in the short term to finalize your divorce as quickly as possible without thinking about the long-term consequences. An advantage of an attorney is that they are objective regarding complex or sensitive issues and are knowledgeable about the laws and court procedures of divorce proceedings. An attorney can explain the law to you and how it applies to your case in order for you to make informed decisions based on all the evidence. This way, you get more time to think about how a decision today could affect your life, finances, assets, relationship with your children, etc. in the future.
Fourth, it is difficult for an individual representing himself or herself in their divorce to fully understand divorce law and their court’s rules and procedures. A divorce is a complicated process. It involves many intricate steps and is not limited to filing documents, getting signatures, and writing down assets and property. An attorney already knows the court rules and procedures in your state as well as the complexities of divorce law. In addition, an attorney will be able to determine exactly what you are eligible to receive out of your divorce. It would be quite difficult for an individual going “pro se” to objectively determine what they are entitled to and, more importantly, how to get it.
Fifth, representing yourself runs the risk that you will not get the most advantageous result our of your divorce, especially if your spouse has hired an attorney to represent him or her. Do not believe that you can finalize your divorce on your own while saving time and money, and definitely do not believe that your spouse’s attorney will have your best interests in mind.