It’s understandable that people want to avoid paying someone to do something they believe that they themselves may be able to accomplish. For some people, it may also seem more comfortable to avoid bringing strangers into what is already a painful and very personal situation.
It is within your legal rights to file for divorce on your own.
In simple divorce cases with no large assets and no children, it may be possible, especially if it is an amicable divorce. If you are comfortable with filing your own taxes, you may very well be able to navigate filing your own divorce. Representing yourself is called appearing pro se (“for yourself”), and it is a right guaranteed by the Constitution.
Even in an uncontested divorce, however, you will still need to check out your state’s laws, assemble all the information you need, and fill out all the required forms, and file them in the correct court. In Illinois, there is no waiting period for an uncontested divorce. You must file the papers in the county where you or your spouse lives (be aware that some counties have their own forms).
However, it is not usually a good idea.
The problem with divorce cases is that they can get out of hand incredibly quickly. The time one must spend to deal with and learn about these matters on their own can outweigh the benefit of saving money.
For the average person, handling the entirety of a divorce case is quite a large undertaking with lots of complications and variables. In particularly complex cases, handling your own affairs can be dangerous and even disastrous.
Having an experienced family law attorney can make all the difference.
Once these disagreements around finances, children, or other issues start ratcheting up, and the level of contentiousness rises, it is a good idea to hire an attorney.
An experienced attorney is an invaluable asset when protecting your time and resources, and your peace of mind, in relation to divorce proceedings.
Experience is particularly important in complex cases.
While all attorneys have spent many years in law school before they start to practice, there is much that that they learn and absorb over the course of continuing to practice in their legal field for years. The experience that comes with this background of practical application of what has been learned in school makes the attorney an invaluable resource for anyone going through a divorce.
A brand-new attorney will often have to scour the Internet to find answers to even relatively simple matters. In most cases, the information they are looking for will only be available in core files or public records and will therefore be difficult or nearly impossible to uncover.
Very often in our practice, colleagues in other firms will reach out for information regarding the drafting of specific clauses that they have not dealt with directly. Our office can provide insight and experience to help them, and this same level of experience is put into action for our clients.
The missteps that you can easily make when handling matters such as retirement accounts, for example, can be devastating. In fact, many attorneys are not even willing to accept cases that contain issues regarding retirement accounts because of the deep complexities of the laws that surround them.
We also help pro se clients after the fact.
Our firm has had pro se clients who represented themselves in the initial case come to us to get help enforcing their divorce judgements. While we are able to assist such clients in navigating these post-divorce proceedings, the outcome is not always as favorable as it might have been with legal representation from the start.
On one occasion, what a pro se client thought was a $50,000 judgement in their favor turned out to be a 50% clause regarding funds invested in the stock market. Unfortunately, those particular stocks were not doing so well at the time, and the 50% came out to far less than the $50,000 the client had been counting on.
Working with an experienced family law attorney, especially in cases involving children or financial issues – or both – can help avert these kinds of mishaps.
To sum up, going through any divorce can cost a lot of time and money. It is understandable to have the desire to handle it on your own in order to avoid extra expenses. It is important to consider the ways in which you may be protecting yourself in the long run by hiring an experienced attorney to handle these matters with skill and precision.