Every American has the right to defend themselves in court, whether it is a criminal, civil or family law matter. Though most would never actually consider doing so in a serious criminal trial, many divorcing couples often wonder if they should pursue their divorce on their own.
If you are one of those individuals considering a do it yourself (DIY) divorce, or filing pro se, be aware that there are many disadvantages and hazards that might damage your case, and you may end-up sacrificing important legal rights.
Required Court Procedures, Pleadings & Forms
A significant part of any family or divorce attorney’s job is to know when, where and the type of critical documents that need to be filed with the clerk of court. Most of these things are determined by a plethora of required court rules and state statutes. After every motion is filed or hearing is scheduled, the court will set deadlines for responses or other pleadings. If you miss a deadline, you could automatically lose your hearing or have your case dismissed.child
In addition to keeping track of dates and deadlines, all documents submitted to a court must take a certain form. Each judge has their own preferences, and most counties have slightly different procedures for drafting and submitting paperwork. Using an attorney will save you the time and energy associated with figuring out which forms and documents should be filed for which issue.
What About Seriously Simple Divorces?
That being said, there are some instances where filing a divorce pro se is possible, and maybe preferable. For example, a young couple who divorces after a year of marriage with no children and no property can probably handle their divorce themselves.
Every courthouse will have a clerk’s office where forms can be filed, and most counties have clinics or other programs which will help pro se filers navigate the system. While these resources will help, the same obstacles discussed above remain—missing a deadline or failing to file the correct form can have serious and permanent consequences. So can failing to ask the right questions or discover certain assets.
Child Custody & Child Support
If you have children, it is almost never advisable to attempt a divorce yourself. With children, one parent will likely be required to pay child support, and there will need to be multiple different arrangements made as to visitation, legal and physical custody, health insurance, and other necessities.
It is difficult to calculate child support accurately even with access to all of a couple’s financial information. Without an attorney, it can be difficult to investigate your former’s spouse’s finances in order to create a fair and accurate child support plan. You may also be unaware of certain assets or that you can discover them with the tools available to a good family law attorney.
Finally, any marital settlement or divorce decree is permanent and final. It is extraordinarily difficult to modify the terms of your settlement or divorce once it is court-ordered. To ensure that you get it right the first time around, you should hire a family law attorney rather than attempting to represent yourself. Having an experienced and knowledgeable family law attorney on your side will make the difference between a divorce that leaves you satisfied and one that leaves you bitter and trapped.
If you are considering divorce or currently going through one, you deserve the help of a caring professional who knows the law and will fight for your rights and the outcome you desire.
The DiPietro Family Law Group has teams of experienced family lawyers in Northern Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC. Contact us to schedule a consultation today at (888) 530-4374.