Should you represent yourself in a divorce? Some couples can successfully divorce without the help of an attorney, while others are not so lucky. Understanding the circumstances in which it is best to hire a divorce lawyer can make a big difference in your divorce.
When to Represent Yourself
If you and your spouse are divorcing amicably, you may be able to represent yourself, as long as these general circumstances are met.
- Neither party is contesting the divorce
- Neither party is contesting paternity or custody
- Neither party is seeking spousal support
- You have assets less than $5,000
- You have debts less than $5,000
- Neither spouse has a retirement or pension
- You don’t own a business
- You both reside in Nevada.
Marriages without these circumstances are basically simple marriages. A few people can say that their marriage would qualify as simple. If you feel you can file the divorce without the assistance of an attorney, then the next section is for you.
Representing Yourself in a Divorce or Custody Matter
If you decide to represent yourself, then you will file as a pro se litigant. Pro se is the Latin legal term that defines a person who wishes to represent themselves in court. It literally means, “In one’s behalf.” So you would be appearing pro se in court.
Note that litigants who appear pro se are not discriminated against in the court in any way. It is your legal right to represent yourself. However, you would be expected to have the correct papers and filings in order, for the judge to review and make a decision on, just as a divorce attorney would. The judge will expect you to understand the correct law and correct legal procedures.
If you feel in any way hesitant or intimidated at the prospect of appearing pro se, then it is recommended that you hire a divorce attorney.
When to Hire a Divorce or Custody Attorney
In most cases, it’s prudent to hire a divorce attorney. Even in an uncontested divorce or joint petition it’s safer to have a custody lawyer or divorce attorney to draft the papers. The allowing are some situations in which you should definitely consider hiring a lawyer.
- Children are involved
- Considerable assets are involved, such as a home or business
- One party entered into the marriage with considerable debt or wealth
- One party is contentious or acrimonious
- The other party has hired legal representation
- One party is threatening a lawsuit
- One party is seeking financial spousal support
- One party has divorced multiple times in the past
- One party lives outside of the state
What a Lawyer Can Do For You
A competent and ethical divorce lawyer is one that aligns him or herself with your interests. Your interest, of course, is to get through the divorce or custody as quickly as possible, in as good a shape as possible, financially and emotionally. This should be their interest.
The right lawyer should be willing to discuss a settlement with your spouse of opposing attorney, willing to answer your questions, and willing to explain the divorce or child custody process. If you encounter a lawyer who seems to be drawing out every court hearing, causing arguments where there were none, or refusing to explain the process to you, it’s possible the attorney is more interested in accumulating legal fees than reaching a divorce resolution.
Stacy Rocheleau, Esq., is owner and managing partner of Right Lawyers in Las Vegas, Nevada. Stacy specializes in family law, divorce, and child custody law.