When a couple decides to get a divorce, they begin to analyze the most common matters to be addressed such as division of property and accounts, spousal support, a schedule for sharing parenting time, and responsibility for debts as well as future expenses for children and college education. They will often begin to research divorce attorneys for representation, but may also consider handling the divorce on their own. “Pro Se” is a Latin phrase meaning “for oneself”, and therefore, if someone handles a divorce Pro Se, it means that they are representing themselves.
The most common reason for a couple to explore handling a divorce on their own is financially motivated. Simply put, they want a divorce, and they want it to be as inexpensive as possible. Parties may feel that they have already worked out the terms of their agreements and do not want to hire an attorney when they feel they can do the paperwork themselves. Often it is just one of the divorcing parties who the proponent of going Pro Se, while the other may prefer to hire attorneys. In this case, it is important to consider if keeping the divorce cost low is your spouse’s only motivation for going Pro Se, or if it is an attempt to control the outcome of the settlement.
Time and time again, attorneys receive calls from parties who have filed for or completed a divorce on their own and have run into problems. The legal documents that are entered upon the completion of a divorce must be detailed, covering every aspect of the parties’ agreements on financial and parenting matters based on local statutes and specifics of a client’s individual situation. Though the intent is to save money, couples who go Pro Se often miss important details and make costly mistakes. Unfortunately, many find themselves back in court post-decree correcting areas that were not clearly defined in their original agreements.
When you retain an attorney, you are paying for a professional to handle the details of your case, for their knowledge of the legal process and necessary documents, and for their experience with the courthouse procedure and judges. An attorney will address issues on your behalf as they arise with the proper legal action. Providing you with quality legal representation and advice along the way is your attorney’s priority, allowing you to focus on your work, home and children, if applicable. The matter of your divorce should be treated with the same respect as any life-changing decision or event. Attention to detail and proper handling of a divorce initially will serve to minimize the possibility of going back to court in the future.
While handling a divorce on their own is initially attractive to parties who are seeking a low-cost option or who feel that their situation does not require attorney involvement, the decision to do so often proves to cost more in the long run. There is no substitute for quality representation when facing a matter as important and potentially complex as divorce.