Pitfalls of Self-Represented Divorces
Dec. 29, 2022
Divorce, or what is legally known as dissolution of marriage, is no fault in Kentucky, which means one partner need only claim irreconcilable differences and then file a Petition for Dissolution with the courts. Your partner is then served with notice of your filing, and he or she can choose to respond and fight the pending action, or do nothing and let the court rule based on the original petition.
Sounds simple enough, right? The problem is unless you’ve only been married a few weeks or months and have accumulated few if any assets and bore no children, a dissolution is never a straightforward or even simple process. There no doubt will be assets to be divided, perhaps even spousal support, and if there are children, their custody must be arranged, along with the rights and duties of each parent spelled out going forward.
If you’re considering divorce, or have already been served or filed a petition, in or around Elizabethtown, Kentucky, contact us at Caleb Bland Law, PLLC.
A divorce means a whole new and never-before-experienced phase of life that can present many challenges if not handled properly. Don’t try to go it alone but enlist the guidance and advice of an experienced and knowledgeable attorney.
Caleb Bland Law, PLLC serves clients not only in Elizabethtown, but also in neighboring communities such as Radcliff, Shepherdsville, Bardstown, and Brandenburg, as well as throughout the counties of Hardin, Meade, Grayson, and elsewhere.
What Is a Self-Represented Divorce?
A self-represented divorce means you’re going it alone without an attorney’s help. A self-represented divorce means that you are acting as your own attorney, and in legal terms, this is known as per se representation.
If you and your spouse are on speaking terms and can decide the full terms of your divorce on your own, you can submit a divorce settlement agreement to the judge for his or her approval. If the agreement is not too one-sided or illegal, it likely will be approved. This is what is known as an uncontested divorce.
However, trust and mutual respect toward each other may have sailed out the window long before a dissolution petition was filed. This would make an out-of-court settlement contentious at best or perhaps even impossible. One spouse may also try to hide assets or otherwise cheat the other spouse. It can be difficult to arrive at a mutually-acceptable settlement.
An alternative to this is called a collaborative agreement, under which both spouses hire attorneys and the attorneys work out the terms of the settlement to each spouse’s satisfaction, even if there may be a bit of grudging satisfaction. This saves the cost of going to court and battling it out, which can raise legal fees sky-high.
Pitfalls of a Self-Represented Divorce
Let’s start with the paperwork. Though these days you can locate the proper paperwork online or pick it up at the courthouse, it’s not always a slam dunk to fill out. If you make a mistake or leave something out, your petition or other legal documents might be rejected. Remember too that the courts and their judges are under no obligation to explain legal requirements to you. You’re on your own once you decide on a pro se divorce.
This can get even trickier once your dissolution goes before a judge. You will be expected to follow proper procedural rules in presenting evidence and addressing the judge. Again, the judge is not required to instruct you. If you make a mistake, it can slow proceedings and serve as a detriment to your case. Judges can become very impatient with pro se representatives who stumble or don’t understand the rules of the courtroom.
For instance, you may feel that your spouse cheated on you and drank too much. You decide to introduce this to shift the odds in your favor, but if you just state how you feel in unspecific terms, it will not be considered evidence. You will need to introduce actual evidence, whether from social media posts, text messages, emails, photos or videos, or the testimonies of others. Judges will not tolerate emotional displays in place of evidence.
Another trap is, as mentioned earlier, your spouse may be hiding assets from you, or worse, you may not totally understand what is available to you under the dissolution of marriage laws.
For instance, the money your spouse socked away in a retirement account during the time of marriage becomes a marital asset that must be divided equitably. In other words, without an attorney to review your situation with you and advise you of your rights – and obligations – you may shortchange yourself.
Your spouse may also pull a mid-divorce surprise on you for which you have no preparation or idea how to deal with. What if your spouse suddenly stops paying temporary alimony or child support? What do you do?
This brings up the need for fallback options. Even if you’re considering an uncontested divorce, you’re going to want the advice and guidance of an experienced attorney. Too many details can slip through your fingertips, and you won’t know where to turn or what to do when the unexpected appears.
How a Divorce Attorney Can Help
People who choose the pro se route generally do so to save money, as legal fees can add up quickly. But, it may be a case of being “penny wise and pound foolish.” You may end up robbing yourself of assets and benefits you are otherwise entitled to if you try to go it alone. And if your ex-partner hires an attorney, you’ll be completely at a disadvantage.
After your marriage is dissolved and settlement terms have been finalized, you’re going to have to face the future with whatever those terms are. Make sure they’re balanced and equitable, giving you a fair chance to move forward in life to achieve the happiness you’re seeking. Consult with an attorney as soon as possible when divorce is on the table. If you’re in or around Elizabethtown, Kentucky, contact the seasoned divorce attorney at Caleb Bland Law, PLLC. Reach out today.