Although most people hire an attorney when getting divorced, the court system does allow individuals to represent themselves. A self-represented litigant — also known as one appearing “pro se” — can file their own paperwork, submit their own evidence and argue for themselves throughout the divorce proceeding. But just because the court system permits a do-it-yourself divorce does not mean that it is a smart move.
Acting as your own representative might seem appealing because it avoids the expense of attorneys’ fees, but these savings may prove to be illusory in view of the amount of time and resources that could be involved in a DIY divorce. Here are some of the factors to consider:
- The legal process is complex — Court proceedings are subject to numerous rules that are not necessarily intuitive to those without training or expertise. If your spouse is represented by an attorney in the divorce and you are not, it could put you at a distinct disadvantage and possibly result in a much lower property or alimony award than you are entitled to.
- Mistakes can be made — Even if your former spouse is also proceeding as a self-represented litigant, you still have the burden to meet certain requirements of the court process. Failure to comply with court orders or to meet deadlines can have a significant impact on financial or custody decisions. You may end up having to hire an attorney to correct these errors.
- Property division can be complicated — Advocating for your fair share of the marital property requires understanding the full financial picture of your marriage. If you don’t have an attorney on your side who understands how to advocate for full disclosure of all assets, your former spouse may succeed in hiding or transferring away assets in order to exclude them from the property settlement.
- Child custody and support disputes can be contentious — Winning child custody involves meeting very specific requirements set out by law. You could be denied the child custody arrangement you are seeking or end up with less child support than you expected because the court was not convinced by the evidence that you presented. An experienced divorce attorney knows how to build a strong case for custody by marshaling facts to show what is in your children’s best interests.
While you may initially save money on attorneys’ fees, a DIY divorce may cost you far more over the long run, both in time spent navigating the legal process and in inadequate property and/or support awards.
At Dawson Family Law, PLLC in Sterling Heights, we are skilled in all aspects of Michigan divorce litigation. We take the workload of a divorce case off your shoulders so that you can focus on other things that are important, like supporting your family and investing in your own healing. To set up a free initial consultation, please call 833-671-4445 or contact us online.