Technology is a marvelous thing. Some cities, for example, have an “online do-it-yourself” divorce program rooted in artificial intelligence. That’s great, if you can get past all the questions that “screen out users with procedurally complicated situations;” and “screen out contested cases and those cases involving the potential, unintentional loss of rights.” The courts recognize that some divorces are trickier than others; going it alone is not right for every case.
Saving Money by NOT Hiring a Divorce Attorney?
Everyone likes to save money. Evidence is all around you: coupons, discount clubs, entire websites dedicated to finding markdowns. Legal work is no different, apparently, from a coffee maker: everyone loves a bargain.
Are you really saving money, though, when you represent yourself in court? Consider what you are putting on the line:
- Everything you own
- Your reputation
- Your future earnings
Then consider what costs you might incur with a family law attorney handling your divorce:
- A few hours of interviews, some paperwork, and a few court appearances
Depending on how complicated your divorce is, an attorney could be the real bargain, no coupon needed.
Even if your attorney charges by the hour for every telephone call, text, tweet, email or in-person conversation, it stands to reason that your total divorce will still cost far less than half the value of your home, vehicles, retirement accounts, and savings.
For Yourself: Pro Se
The legal term for being your own divorce lawyer is pro se, which means “for oneself.” The casual term for being your own divorce lawyer is “I’m nuts.” Your divorcing spouse’s most likely term for it is “He’s a chump.”
Never mind. Go ahead, pro se yourself into court. Along the way, you will have to deal with your wife’s actual, licensed, state bar-passing attorney.
Your wife’s attorney does not care one whit that you do or do not know the law. That attorney will follow the letter of Virginia’s divorce laws, meaning you can expect:
- To be treated professionally
- To be held responsible for everything you do, say, write and submit
- To be contacted repeatedly regarding every nuance of the divorce
Your wife’s attorney, privately at least, may be thrilled that you have made the bone-headed move to represent yourself. In essence, you will never know what hit you. Do not expect to be ill-treated, but on the other hand do not expect the attorney to feel obligated to identify your mistakes. Your wife hired an attorney, not a tutor.
Common Mistakes When Representing Yourself
Representing yourself in even the simplest uncontested, no-fault divorce may present unexpected pitfalls:
- Filing for divorce in the wrong jurisdiction
- Missing court filing deadlines
- Filling out the paperwork incorrectly, incompletely or inadequately
- Filing the wrong paperwork
- Failing to notify all parties
- Failing to request documents of opposing counsel
- Failing to file proper motions
Amateur Problems: Emotional Control
Pile onto the novice’s nightmare the emotional toll of a divorce, and you have double trouble brewing. You think you can think rationally and represent yourself, but most lawyers will tell you their clients are not thinking clearly 100 percent of the time.
Letting your emotions get the better of you could mean you lash out at your wife, her attorney, or (oh, dear!) the judge if you are in a hearing. Talk about expensive: few Virginia judges are willing to tolerate “Crimes Against the Administration of Justice” as outlined in Virginia Code § 18.2-456.
Sure, you can plead that you are an amateur, but the judge is under no obligation to overlook your outbursts, insults, vile language, or inappropriate behavior.
You are Out of Your Depth
Your inexperience in a courtroom is stressful enough; what happens when your wife’s attorney presents a legal argument you simply do not understand? Most people react in one of three ways to situations beyond their control:
You cannot fight your wife’s attorney in a hearing. You cannot run from the courtroom or hearing room. The judge will not allow you frequent recesses to collect your thoughts. You are, simply put, out of your depth and at the mercy of your wife’s (real) attorney.
Your wife’s attorney will communicate with you through filings, paperwork, discovery, and, ultimately, through oral arguments in the hearing. At every step, you must:
- Understand what you are reading and hearing
- Understand Virginia’s divorce laws
- Respond appropriately
- Identify weaknesses or errors in those arguments
For most amateurs, the learning curve is simply too steep to go from practice to polished in a single attempt. Yet that is the situation you set up for yourself in thinking you can go toe-to-toe with your wife’s attorney.
A Better Choice: Call The Firm Representing Men Exclusively
Instead of struggling to communicate with your wife’s attorney (who is legally bound to treat you as if you know what you are doing), hire a divorce attorney who really does know what to do, say, write and ask.
The Firm For Men is the law firm for Virginia’s men who don’t like lawyers. We get it; give us a call at 757-383-9184 or contact us online. Give us a chance to help you see why having a family law attorney at your side is better, safer, and less expensive than going it alone.