Handling Your Own Case
It can be tempting to try to handle your own divorce case. You might think handling your own divorce is a good idea because you want to to save money, because you think you know your situation better than others do, or simply because you don’t want to trust others with your personal life. However, at Miller Law Group, P.C. would urge you to reconsider your options. There are common mistakes and traps that, in a court hearing lasting as little as fifteen minutes, could result in you losing tens, even hundreds, of thousands of dollars—or even parenting time and parental rights with regards to your children. You might be losing more than you think by not hiring a Massachusetts divorce attorney.
The first thing to note when deciding to represent yourself in a divorce case is the court will hold you to the same standard as they would an attorney. Over and over again, people make the same mistakes and lose money that could have been saved.
Timeliness of Divorce
One thing that most people who aren’t lawyers may not be aware of is that there are strict deadlines and timelines.
You have specific time limits and deadlines for:
- Filing claims
- Responding to court orders
- Preparing a plan
If you have not undergone divorce procedures before, it can be stressful to keep up with all the forms and requests. Not only that, if you fail to submit the proper information in a timely manner, the court can reject your claims. Many things can go wrong if you do not have time to prepare.
Divorce requires very specific paperwork to be filled out. You need to be able to obtain financial records, income information, tax papers and other documents. However, the situation can get complicated if your spouse’s attorney refuses to divulge that information. If you had an attorney, he or she could file a Motion to Compel, which asks the court to order the opposing party to take some action—most often dealing with discovery disputes. Without having all the necessary information, it will be tricky to complete the forms and can cost you planning time. Furthermore, if you believe your spouse hid assets or income, it is nearly impossible to report it on your own. This is where an experienced attorney can help you.
Preparing for Trial
If your case ends up going to trial, it is imperative to have a lawyer to support you. Preparing for a trial requires extensive planning, forethought and experience, especially when it comes to guessing the opponent’s actions. If you represent yourself, you will need to know what briefs are, how to examine and cross-examine witnesses, the rules of evidence, and how to deliver opening and closing arguments. If you are not well-versed, a lack of experience can negatively effect your case.
Even if you are lucky enough to reach an agreement with your spouse, you want to make sure you don’t agree to unfavorable terms in your divorce agreement. If your spouse has an attorney, he or she will already have the upper hand. Without an experienced attorney on your side, it may be difficult for you to understand if the settlement you are agreeing to is in your best interest.
Can I Handle My Own Case?
Although you are allowed to handle your own case, we do not recommend it. Action in the courtroom is fast. Opportunities to offer or respond to evidence can pass by in the blink of an eye. If you are not prepared, you could lose your home, your income, your retirement–and possibly your children. It can cost you even more to fix your mistakes after the fact, than if you had just paid for an attorney from the beginning. But if you do represent yourself as a pro se litigant, make sure you’re familiar with the court, learn what is required for your case, and do your homework.
Contact us today for a free legal evaluation.