At Untie the Knot, we understand that representing yourself in a divorce and custody case, which is also called appearing pro se, may seem intimidating. You can do it, and we can help. Even if your divorce involves child custody, know that you can always represent yourself in front of a judge. In this article, we will outline the ways that self-representation can be beneficial and successful.
In family court cases, like divorce or custody cases, appearing pro se can save you money. With the support of Untie the Knot, you’ll find that pro se representation will be carefully and thoughtfully explained. You will understand how to fill out paperwork for your divorce filing and how to speak in court.
If you decide to represent yourself in court, know that you have to stay calm in high-pressure situations and that you will need to fulfill court obligations, just like a lawyer would.
Here are some of the reasons why you may consider self-representation.
Full representation by an attorney in divorce and custody cases can be expensive. Lawyers often collect a retainer to take your case. You are often then billed hourly and your retainer must be replenished monthly. By representing yourself, you may avoid costly lawyer fees which may ease your financial burden. It is important to balance the goals of saving money with the long term impact of making potentially poor decisions, the risks associated with a lack of legal education, and the general stress that can be involved in not hiring an expert. With Untie the Knot, you find a happy medium.
Over time, saving money may become a more important consideration. You may want to focus on saving in the long-run. Shifting to live on a single income after your divorce is finalized, living on a tighter budget, and having to be more frugal can be a challenge and a cost associated with divorce.
If you are filing for the dissolution of your marriage, you will be negotiating with someone that you know well and someone with whom you share an emotional history. Some people are afraid that once either you or your spouse hires a lawyer, an imaginary line in the sand is drawn, and that person is indicating that they are no longer interested in civil communication. We do hear that people are afraid that hiring a lawyer will escalate conflict, or signal to the opposing party that conflict is inevitable. Self-representation in divorce can be perceived as a less aggressive approach.
And lastly, if you have children with your spouse, it is even more important to maintain civility. A divorce forces you to communicate with your ex-spouse about your child or children’s future. And this divorce will also be hard on them. Maintaining civility is a way to show your children that even though their parents are going through this tough process, you both still love them, and consider their well-being and happiness together.
What is the biggest risk of representing yourself in family court for a divorce or custody hearing? It’s hard to say. Agreeing to something that is not fair or equitable is a risk. Missing an opportunity to mediate to an agreement and taking issues to a magistrate or judge to decide is also a risk. If you appear in court without sufficiently preparing for your case, you may give an advantage to the other side. Without the right preparation, even some small mistakes could prolong your case or cause problems.
This is why Untie the Knot provides an alternative to the idea of either going it alone without legal education, by self-representation or the other extreme of being fully-represented by a family law attorney or a family law firm.
Our workshops help pro se litigants understand the family law environment, complete the necessary paperwork in order to complete the dissolution of a marriage or application for custody, prepare to get the most out of divorce or custody mediation and prepare for their day in court.
Whether you want to keep your divorce affordable, or if you prefer to handle things on your own, there are plenty of reasons for why a person would want to represent themselves.
You may feel there is no one who will take your family and your own case more seriously than you. By self-representing, you are your only client. Representing yourself in a family court case can result in an agreement you are pleased with, financial agreements that are acceptable, and co-parenting plans that suits both spouses, leaving all parties involved satisfied. Ironing out the details with your spouse will allow you two to figure out what works best for your unique situation.