Friday, February 15, 2008

Advice on Doing Your Own Divorce

Why handling your own divorce is a bad idea comes from The London Times, has an English perspective but not so entirely mired in England that it has no application over here.

I see only the first proposition as being too English. The second applies here insofar as you got to know the case law as well as the divorce statutes. As written, the seventh does not really apply here - except for (maybe) dividing property and/or child custody. Skipping the reference to ancillary relief, number 9 does apply here because it is very difficult, if not unethical, for an attorney to negotiate with a pro se divorce party.

All the others apply here but I got to admit to I do love two in particular:

5. Cross-examination is an art, not a science. Watching Perry Mason will not turn the man or woman on the London Underground into a fully-fledged trial lawyer. There is only so much advocacy that can be learned from books. The rest is experience and flair, which can only be honed into something serviceable after several years in the business. Effective cross-examination is an art that very few are able to master to a high standard. Anything less than that standard is likely to fail to produce success. At worst, it could be repetitive and annoying.
Pro se parties use cross examination for arguing with the other party and not for asking questions. Judges do not like that. Yes, cross examination is hard work. I spent a week last March in the trial advocacy college. I had to unlearn some bad habits - and I do this stuff for a living. Laypeople think that barking at the other side will suffice as cross examination. Nooooooo. Last week, I quite neatly set up the opposing party and got her to admit to being a liar about my client, got the client more visitation than allowed under the guidelines and the client could not understand why I was not more brutal towards here.

Please read the whole article but pay particular attention to the eighth point: "It’s a false economy."

Thanks to Family Lore for the lead to this article.

Speaking of the McCartney divorce and representing one's self, do read Heather Mills minus the divorce lawyer. The setting might change but I think it describes what a pro se party will feel in court:

For those unfamiliar with the facilities at the Royal Courts of Justice, let me describe the atmosphere in the sombre courtroom. . Until a final deal is signed and approved by the Court, a fully fought contest could yet take place. Even an agreement reached “in principle” does not guarantee a done deal - and could still break down.

The courtroom is imposing. The High Court judge, Mr Justice Bennett, will sit on a raised dais, without robes or wig. Ranks of lawyers will be seated opposite him. The formidable Queen’s Counsel Nicholas Mostyn, who pulls no punches - he once fearlessly cross-examined an entire opposing team of lawyers, including one by video link while she holidayed in Japan - will sit on the front row. I do not expect him to spare Heather Mills. Behind them will be the barristers and solicitors.

Put a chill down my spine.

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