Can You Divorce Without An Attorney?
Take our DIY Divorce Self-Assessment Test
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to determine if you’re a good candidate to represent yourself in your divorce.
- Are you usually on time? If you are appearing in Court, your time management is essential. Your case can be hurt if you don’t show up prepared and on time.
- Can you keep track of deadlines? The Court has timelines, most often defined by code, that it must adhere to.
- Do you have the time to manage the process? What position are you in right now as far as time and research available to you?
- Do you do your own taxes? This is a great way to determine if you are used to filling out forms. Those in family court are not unlike the forms that you’re doing when your filling out forms that go to the IRS.
- Are you somebody who doesn’t like speaking in public? Do you feel comfortable speaking in front of people and articulating yourself, or will you shut down?
- Where are you at emotionally? Truly assess yourself before you decide if you’re a good candidate to do it yourself. Even if you are comfortable speaking in front of others, do you think you’ll be able to remain calm when speaking about something so highly emotionally?
- Do you think rules are for other people? You need to understand that the rules belong to you, as well as everyone else.
- Can you handle the truth? In Divorce Court, it’s not unusual for one party or the other to suffer disappointment. You need to be able to accept that sometimes it is what it is.
- Do you keep cool under pressure? If you are easily provoked and likely to fly off the handle in public, you will hurt yourself and your position in a divorce proceeding.
- Do you have a hard time talking to your ex? Or, are you on good-enough terms where you’re able to come to some agreements with each other?
Adding Up Your Score
These are all things you should be considering when making the decision to do a DIY divorce.
Count the number of Yes answers to see how well you’re doing. If you answered yes to all 10, you’re in good shape to manage your own divorce. If you answered yes to a majority of the questions, and can make an effort to follow the requirements of the others, you’ll have a better than average chance of handling the process yourself.
“Is the Judge going to hold me as accountable if make a mistake even though I’m representing myself?”
The rules say, YES. The pro per litigant will be held to the same standards as an attorney.
In truth, however, it depends. I’ve seen some leniency exceptions made. Nevertheless, if you are representing yourself, you cannot expect special treatment.
Your best bet is to work in conjunction with a paralegal who can draw up your paperwork and help you in the process. Even better, work with an attorney to coach you with a definite plan, so you have a framework to work with, even if you do the process yourself.
You can always start out with free or low-cost resources and then decide along the way that this isn’t working. I always advise people not to put themselves under pressure to have all the answers all the time. You can always change your mind about how you want your divorce handled.