Handling Your Own Case
It can be tempting to try to handle your own divorce case.
Whether it is 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, you might think handling your own divorce case is a good idea. However, we 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 15 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 divorce attorney.
The first thing to note when deciding to represent yourself in a divorce case is that the court will hold you to the same standard as they would an experienced family law attorney. Over and over again, people make the same mistakes and lose serious 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 when filing for and going through the divorce process.
You have specific time limits and deadlines for:
If you have not undergone divorce procedures before, it can be stressful and overwhelming to keep up with all the forms and requests required. Not only that, if you fail to submit the proper information in a timely manner or by a specific deadline, the court can reject your claims. Many things can go wrong if you do not have time to prepare or follow timelines.
Divorce requires very specific paperwork to be filled out and submitted. You need to be able to obtain financial records, income information, tax papers and other documents from both parties. 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 valuable 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. Don’t let your spouse have the upper hand!
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. Don’t get cheated out of your fair share of assets and money because you are not as knowledgeable about legal language as your spouse’s attorney!
Can I Handle My Own Case?
Although you are allowed to handle your own case, we would not recommend it! The old expression that someone who represents himself or herself has a fool for a client has a lot of truth in 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, lose your income, lose your retirement – and possibly lose your children. It might 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.