Sunday, February 18, 2007

D.I.Y Divorce - pros and cons

During our being snowbound almost all of last week, I caught up with some Law Guru inquiries. Two had something in common with this post's topic. One claimed she had not enough money to hire an attorney for her divorce. The other claimed not enough money to pay an attorney for help with their uncontested divorce. The first exemplifies what happens when one ought to have gotten an attorney and did not. I told the second case that they were likely to create very large problems for themselves. I heard nothing further from them.

Generally speaking, I think people with children, real estate, and or pensions ought to get themselves to an attorney before the divorce is final. I also think most people receiving this advice think I am being wholly self-serving in looking for a fee. I doubt that I would have taken either of these cases, so the reason is not just a fee. My reason is that I really hate to see a botched job and having to explain how much work (and cost) it will take to fix the problem - if the problem can be fixed at all. I have a small post on Indiana law regarding attorney fees here. Please read this before deciding that you cannot afford an attorney.

This afternoon I spent time seeing what I had missed on the web between work and shoveling snow. I found two different blogs with posts that cover this territory.

Thanks to Grant Griffiths who posted the link to this South Carolina Family Law Blog post. This is definitely the post for not doing itself and it is better written than anything I have been able to do on the subject.

When faced with these important issues, most people want to seek the advice and assistance of an experienced, competent attorney. Ideally, you want to find an attorney who is not only trained in and very knowledgeable of the law, but who also has experience in preparing documents, courtroom procedure, settlement negotiation, and other aspects of Family Court cases. Hiring an attorney will help things to run more smoothly in your case and will increase the likelihood of your receiving a favorable result in your case.

Although it is possible to represent yourself in Family Court, it is not advisable in the vast majority of cases. Should you choose to represent yourself, the Court will not be able to assist you with your case in any manner. You will be held to the same requirements of the other party’s attorney with regard to the law, procedure, and all other issues. Should you mishandle your own case due to lack of knowledge or lack of skill, it is unlikely that an attorney will later be able to undo your mistakes.

Please read the whole post. It articulates very well why lawyers cringe when people do their own divorces.

I distinguished divorces with children, real estate and/or pensions. I probably ought to articulate the reason for distinguishing those kind of cases. Bluntly put, those cases involve the possibility of injuring third parties as much as yourselves. That possibility raises many issues with me about people who are doing their own divorces. Some of them being impolite, I will not voice them all here. However, I will mention one - and that is an ignorance of how their actions do extend beyond the two parties of the divorce.

For the pro-DIY side,shlep: the Self-Help Law ExPress has a very long post here. I suggest anyone reading this post and seriously wants to do their own divorce, then go to the shlep post and take the link to the page they have so you can evaluate your potential as a pro se litigant. I am also very sympathetic with the idea of unbundling and have been for years. However, the last I knew unbundling was considered unethical in Indiana. (I do need to check on that point).

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