No matter what type of legal proceeding you are involved with, the laws of this country protect your right to represent yourself in court. Though most people would never seriously consider representing themselves in a serious criminal trial, many divorcing couples wonder if they need an attorney at all to represent them in court.
If you are considering representing yourself, or filing pro se, be aware that there are many risks and hazards which could damage your case or cost you valuable legal rights.
Deadlines, Procedures, and Forms
A major part of a divorce attorney’s job is to know when and where certain documents need to be filed. 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.
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.
That being said, there are some instances where filing a divorce pro se is completely doable. For example, a young couple who divorces after a year of marriage with no children and no property can probably find the resources to 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 prove 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.
Children and Child Support
When a marriage produced 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.
Finally, when you are considering filing your divorce pro se, you should be aware that you will be at a significant disadvantage if the other side is represented by counsel. Having an experienced and knowledgeable family law attorney on your side often makes the difference between a divorce that leaves everyone satisfied and one that leaves both parties bitter.
A family law attorney can help you handle a wide variety of issues during your divorce. At Pacific Northwest Family Law PLLC, we help parents work with each other to create a parenting plan that is in the best interests of your children. Through mediation, negotiation, or litigation if necessary, our knowledgeable Washington family law attorneys will take your side and help you through difficult situations.
If you would like more information about parenting plans, child support, divorce, or any other family law issue, simply fill out our online case evaluation form or call 509-572-3700 to schedule your appointment today.