A Field Guide To Divorce Self Representation
Divorce self representation is when someone chooses to bypass an attorney and go through the divorce process without an attorney. We understand that not everyone can afford legal representation, so these four tips will help you get started.
- Use the Court’s Resources. The Maricopa County Superior Court website has multiple resources for litigants representing himself. These resources include the ezCourt documents software that can, with your input, and without providing legal advice, generate many court documents for you. The Court also has a law library where you can get copies of Title 25 and the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedures. As you read through the rules, pay special attention to the headings. They will help you find the information you are looking for.
It is important to be familiar with the rules because everything that happens in family court has either a rule or statute attached to it. Obviously, these forms cannot give legal advice, but they can instruct you how to fill it out and in point you in in the right directions the court also has a law library in order to be successful in your case I recommend getting a copy of title 25 which is the statute that governs Family Court proceedings I also recommend getting a copy of the Arizona rules of family Law procedure. For example, if you’re trying to file a motion to appear telephonically, theirs is a rule that tells you how to file it. If you need to serve the other party.
There is a rule that tells you how to go about it. If you’re asking for spousal maintenance, there is a statute that tells you how the court determines spousal maintenance. Literally anything that is within the power of the judge to do will be in either the statutes or the rules of procedure. As such, if you get a filing or you encounter something that you’re unfamiliar with, the best practice is to see if that document references a rule or statute and look up those rules and statutes to determine your options.
- Be professional. You may not have an attorney, but you should play the part. Dress professionally. Act professionally. Family court judges deal with unprofessional self-represented parties every day. You do not want your judge to put you in that box.
Try you best to remove yourself from the emotional aspects of your divorce and focus on the things that are important to the Court. For example, Arizona is a no fault divorce state, which means adultery does not factor into the judge’s decision with respect to property or spousal maintenance. Unless your ex-spouse wasted community money on the affair, the judge does not want to hear about it.
- Stick to the Big Picture. Even seasoned attorneys run out of time during trials and hearings in Family Court. The system is overbooked. There is never enough time to say everything that you want to say. You need to stay focused on the big picture.
Go through all of the issues and facts in your case and prioritize them. What are the most important parts for the judge to hear? What would you cut out if you had to cut something out? Develop and stick to a theme. If bring up ever minor detail, even the ones that of little importance, the judge will lose trach of the big picture. When you are done making your case, ask the judge they have any follow up questions for you.
- Be prepared. Pay attention to deadlines. Know what you want to tell the judge before you walk into the court room.
For each issue, go through all of the relevant rules and statutes and bullet points specific facts that support your position or hurts the other party’s positions.
We typically advise people to hire and attorney, even if it they decide to hire someone else. Every case is different and proper advice cannot be given without and understanding of the specific facts and issues in a case.
Please keep in mind, this blog is not intended to be legal advice about divorce self representation. Feel free to ask questions about our free online resources for forms and documents you’ll need for your divorce on our Facebook page.