Pitfalls of Representing Yourself in a Divorce

Divorce can be expensive. Sometimes, in an effort to save money, people try to “do it themselves.” Representing yourself in a divorce (or any legal proceeding) is called appearing “pro se.” When it comes to divorce, this strategy often backfires and can actually cost you more money in the long run.

A Lawyer Cannot Represent Both Spouses

Divorcing couples have tried all kinds of pro se arrangements. Sometimes both partners will forego legal representation and try to work things out themselves. Other times one spouse has a lawyer, while the other does not. In another arrangement, the couple will hire one attorney under the mistaken belief that the attorney will represent both parties.

Representing both parties in a divorce creates a conflict of interest. Because a lawyer has ethical and fiduciary duties to her client, representing a husband and wife in the same divorce actually means that one spouse would essentially be unrepresented. Without a lawyer, the unrepresented spouse risks getting taken advantage of, inadvertently forfeiting assets or assuming debt, or losing parental rights.

Not Hiring a Lawyer Could Lead to Delays or Even Dismissal of Your Case

Even if you believe your divorce will be fairly amicable, it's still a good idea to hire an experienced central-Florida divorce attorney.

In an uncontested divorce there may be one or two small issues that need to be worked out. Both spouses are amicable, willing to talk to each other, and will work towards a compromise. Even in a situation like this, it’s important to work with an attorney to make sure the paperwork is prepared and filed properly, and to ensure that no details are inadvertently overlooked. For an uncontested divorce, many Florida lawyers will accept a one-time, flat fee payment.

A contested divorce is one in which there are multiple issues to be worked out, the couple is usually less amicable, and the divorce will be more contentious. In this situation, you really need a lawyer. The divorce will go before a judge, and it’s important that you have a skilled and experienced central-Florida divorce attorney who knows and understands the procedures for filing a divorce. Different counties have different rules that must be followed, and an experienced Florida divorce attorney will know the nuances of practicing in each court. If you are not familiar with the local rules of court you risk having a pleading rejected, having your case dismissed, or having a court date re-scheduled, which means more time away from work and other obligations.

You Need a Divorce Attorney If Children Are Involved

If your divorce involves children under the age of 18, it’s important to work with an experienced divorce attorney. Different rules apply when children are involved, and the divorce becomes much more complicated as the court must consider issues of child custody, visitation, and support. These questions can have a significant impact on your future, and it does not make sense to risk something going wrong just to save a few dollars. Don’t risk losing your parental rights just because you don’t want to spend the money to hire an attorney.

Courts Do Not Make Special Accommodations for Pro Se Litigants

While many judges try to be accommodating to litigants who wish to represent themselves, they are under no obligation to do so. People who represent themselves are still required to follow the same laws and rules as someone who hired an attorney, and no special exceptions are made because a person chose to represent themselves.

Experience Matters

A good divorce lawyer has handled hundreds of divorces and other domestic relations matters. We use our experience to develop workable situations that are designed to solve your unique problems. Many times, an experienced divorce attorney will be able to come up with a creative solution more quickly than you might be able to on your own. This, in turn, can shorten the overall length of the proceedings and allow you to get through the divorce as quickly as possible. Hiring an attorney will allow you to move through the divorce more efficiently because the lawyer is a professional negotiator familiar with the local court rules and procedures.

You Need an Unbiased Opinion

It’s also important to hire an experienced divorce attorney because divorce is an emotionally charged subject. When you are emotionally invested in the outcome, it’s more difficult to rationally evaluate a situation. These negative emotions can result in a less than optimal outcome in your divorce.

Considering Divorce? Contact the Law Office of Jody L. Fisher Today

If you're considering divorce, contact the Law Office of Jody L. Fisher today. My team of domestic relations professionals will be happy to schedule a consultation. Call (352) 503-4111, email, or complete our online information form.

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