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How To Represent Yourself In Divorce Court

What Other Divorce Papers Will You Need For An Uncontested Divorce

Family Court – IF youâre going to represent yourself. 4 things you need to know.

Aside from a divorce settlement agreement, you will need to collect and file other papers for an uncontested divorce. The forms you will need depend on the state and county you live in. You can usually find these forms on the courts website. Forms can have slightly different names, but usually, these are a must everywhere:

  • Petition for a dissolution of marriage
  • Financial affidavit

If you have children, you will also need to acquire other necessary forms, but they are also state-specific.

Tip #: The Longer The Marriage The More Likely You Need A Lawyer

The amount of spousal support, or alimony, to which a spouse is entitled may increase significantly after a couple has been married for 7 or 10 years, depending on the divorce laws in your jurisdiction. Accordingly, if the marriage lasted around a decade or more at the time of dissolution, it’s in your best interest to seek legal aid.

Tip #: Consider Your Investments

If you and your spouse have acquired profitable assets, even if those accounts were opened prior to the marriage, it may be best to consult with a divorce attorney to ensure your rights are properly preserved. The same is true for vested pensions or any premarital property that has significantly increased in value over the course of the marriage.

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Tip #: Control The Court

Only you can make your point known, and you cant appeal a case because of a mistake that you have made.

This, again, is why it is so important to know the rules of the court.

Whether you are objecting to a claim made by your adversary, or you are filing a motion. You will need to know the courts rules in order to control the court.

Tip #: The Same Rules Still Apply

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While the court may grant extra leniency if a particular form is missing from your file, DIY divorcees are still bound by the same rules of evidence, candor, and civil procedure as any attorney, and could face significant penalties for lying, hiding information, or otherwise engaging in misconduct. Likewise, as a self-represented party, you may be required to speak to the judge directly, which should be done as succinctly and politely as possible.

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Your Spouses Attorney Is Not Your Attorney

For the most part, the family law attorneys in Minnesota are pretty nice. Theyre ethical theyre reasonable. Sometimes they are even downright pleasant. But you must remember that your spouses attorney is not your attorney. Your spouses attorney cannot give you legal advice. He or she is under absolutely no obligation to make sure your interests are being preserved or that any agreement or settlement is right for you. That does not make them a bad person or a bad attorney. That attorneys job is to advocate for the interests of their client . They certainly wont force you into signing or agreeing to anything , but they are under zero obligation to explain the pitfalls of a settlement agreement. See number 8 above! If it looks like you and your spouse have settled things and there is an agreement for you to sign, pay an attorney to review the settlement with you and get their input. Ask: Does it seem fair? Is that what a judge would maybe order if I went to trial? What are the repercussions/consequences/pitfalls of this agreement? Should I be asking for something different?

Ask Questions & Do Research

Asking questions is key when you’re representing yourself. If the judge is saying something that you don’t quite understand during your hearing, politely ask if they could explain. They might not answer every question you have, but it doesn’t hurt to ask kindly to see if you can get a further explanation.

Researching your questions online can also help if you’re not sure who to ask. Be aware that not everything you read online will pertain directly to your case, so be critical of what you’re reading. Nonetheless, doing some research can go a long way in giving you an understanding of this process.

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The Positive Side Of Pro Se Divorce

The biggest advantage to a pro se divorce is obviously the cost.

If you utilize a kit or an online guide, the cost drops from a potentially astronomical sum to possibly nothing more than the few hundred dollars it costs to file the paperwork. Thats a tempting proposition. Its also a big reason why this strategy has grown in popularity.

Unless you have prior legal experience, this works best in straightforward cases. Thats the ideal scenario to serve as your own counsel.

If you and your spouse can behave yourselves, work together to dissolve your marriage, and generally act in an amicable fashion, you can move forward with minimal friction.

This works best in the case of uncontested divorces.

  • Your marriage was short in duration.
  • You dont have kids.
  • There is little or no shared property to divide.

Pro se may be the way to go in these cases.

Even in more complicated scenarios, representing yourself may still work. If both sides can collaborate and be civil, its possible to handle the division of property and even custody arrangements.

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Understand That You Are Acting As Your Own Attorney: Part 1

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This might seem obvious, but there are some pretty big responsibilities that come with being an attorney. You are expected to follow all the rules of the court and rules of civil procedure. This means that you have to know and pay attention to filing deadlines, rules of evidence, the court process, and everything else that goes along with it. While judges and referees are generally gentler on pro se parties, after choosing to represent yourself, you are held to those requirements. Down the line if something in your case goes awry, you cannot use the excuse, well, I didnt know because I am not an attorney or but Your Honor, I didnt have an attorney. Nope. Sorry. Not an excuse.

Part 2 Family law/divorces in general might seem pretty easy. You fill out the family law court forms, check the boxes for what you want to do with custody labels and parenting time, and youre done. However, you must understand that there are consequences that will flow from your agreement.

Part 3 You also have to understand that there are consequences to the way you divide up your property. It can be easy to transfer titles of vehicles and homes , but did you know that this does not remove you from the mortgage or the loan on the car? There are huge problems that can arise after the divorce is finalized if these types of agreements do not take into account what happens to the loans or mortgages.

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Before Representing Yourself In Court: Consider Your Options

Look, although many individuals can represent themselves in court. Some types of law are considered complex, and a simple mistake could land you in jail.

If you cant afford to have an attorney represent you, be sure to consider your options:

Assuming you have decided that going pro se is the way you want to go, lets dive in!

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What Representing Yourself Means

When you represent yourself in court, you handle the court proceedings and applications without a lawyer. You will often be referred to as a litigant-in-person .

As an LIP, you will be held to the same standard as lawyers. The court is not expected to relax its procedural rules and standards for you. This means that you must:

  • Bear the full responsibility of preparing for your own case.
  • Conduct your own case in all court hearings.
  • Comply with all rules, court directions and legal procedures.
  • Familiarise yourself with the applicable laws and legal principles, and the defences available to you in law.

Note

How Hard Is It To Represent Yourself In Court

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If you choose to represent yourself, the court will hold you to the same standards as if you were a lawyer. Some cases are simple and straightforward. … If you find, as your case proceeds, that representing yourself is too difficult, you may have the option at that time to hire a lawyer to represent you.

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Pros And Cons Of Representing Yourself In A Divorce

Take a look at the table below for some useful information that will help you decide whether you should represent yourself in a divorce:

Pros
  • Lower costyou dont need to pay attorney fees
  • Less stressyou and your spouse can work together without lawyers
  • Shorter processing timemost of the times, this will be an uncontested divorce that has shorter procedures
  • Complexyou have to do a lot of research on your own
  • Overwhelmingif you are dealing with a contested divorce
  • Trickyif you have no legal knowledge and your spouse has an attorney to represent them

One of the most important obligations of going through a divorce is creating a divorce settlement agreement. You wont have to deal with this essential step on your ownDoNotPay can help you!

Tips For Representing Yourself In Divorce Court

When planning a divorce, you will need to consider your options for representation in divorce court. Some couples choose to self-represent, legally referred to as pro se, instead of hiring a divorce attorney. The following tips offer guidance for the potential pro se petitioner, as well as red flags that could mean it’s time to seek help from a lawyer.

As explained by family lawyer Keith M. Horner, you do not need an attorney, but it is advisable that you consult with an attorney even if you decide to proceed on your own in a divorce or custody matter.

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Do Your Homework When Representing Yourself In Court

Just as you wouldnt show up to a business meeting without any background information on what to expect, you should not neglect to do some research and find out what will happen in court. Knowing what to expect will not only help you get all of the information for your case in order but it will also keep you calm and able to make rational decisions when representing yourself in court.

Find a legal resource center in your area. This is a group of attorneys and other legal professionals who can help you learn about the types of paperwork you need, how to go about representing yourself in court, and what you can expect. You can also go to the court and watch a few cases so you understand how your court case will likely proceed.

You Can Hire An Attorney On A Limited Scope Basis

Representing Yourself in Court 101 – Walk Away If You Can

Many attorneys offer a limited scope representation option. This is where you can hire an attorney for a couple hours of their time or a portion of the case to help you out. This is usually a cheaper option, especially if you have drafted all of your own documents and just want to double check that you did everything right as well as what will be the consequences of your agreements or legal positions. I strongly encourage people to do this. Paying the few hundred bucks now can save you thousands down the road when you need to hire an attorney to fix things. It is worth it.

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Grounds For Divorce In Ontario

Grounds for an online divorce using OnlineDivorce.com are the same as they would be for any divorce within the Province of Ontario. Grounds are merely the reason for divorce, and the province must approve them.

To obtain a dissolution of marriage in Ontario, you will have to prove that your marriage is broken down . The Canadian law states that a marriage breakdown occurs if:

  • Both the filing and the defending spouse have lived separate and apart for a minimum of one year with the consideration that the marriage is over and complete or
  • the defending spouse has committed adultery or
  • the defending spouse has been physically or mentally cruel to the petitioning spouse, making it unbearable for the spouses to continue living together.

Cruelty can include both acts of physical violence as well as those that would cause severe mental anguish.

*Most divorces granted in Canada are based on the one year of separation grounds. It is important to realize that ‘living separate and apart’ does not necessarily mean that the spouses must live in separate homes – they can be separated but still share a same home for reasons such as children, money, or convenience.

What Should I Do If I Cant Attend Court On A Scheduled Date

Once the court sets a trial date, you are expected to go ahead with your trial. Asking the court to change a scheduled date is called an adjournment. Adjournments will only be allowed in exceptional circumstances. If you need to change the date of your trial, you need to fill out a form called a 14B Motion Form, serve it on all the parties and file it with the court. If the other party agrees with an adjournment, you can say this on the form. You should be aware that the judge may not agree to the adjournment even if the other party agrees to it. If the other party has not agreed to the adjournment, you or your lawyer must go to court on the date that was originally scheduled and explain why you need an adjournment. It is important that you know that a judge may order costs against you or the trial may proceed without you, if you fail to appear in court on the scheduled day and time.

If there is an emergency that prevents you from attending court, contact the courthouse as soon as possible so that the court staff can tell the judge that there is an emergency and that you are asking for an adjournment.

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Notice About Representing Yourself

Notice to parties who are not represented by an attorney who is a member in good standing of The Florida Bar

If you have questions or concerns about the forms, instructions, commentary, the use of the family law forms, or your legal rights, it is strongly recommended that you talk to an attorney.

If you do not know an attorney, please call the lawyer referral service in your area or contact The Florida Bars Lawyer Referral Service.

If you do not have the money to hire an attorney, you please call the legal aid office in your area.

Because the law does change, the forms and information about them may have become outdated. Be aware that changes may have taken place in the law or court rules that would affect the accuracy of the forms or instructions. Updates to Family Law Rules and Opinions are found on the www.flcourts.org website.

In no event will the Florida Supreme Court, The Florida Bar, or anyone contributing to the production of these forms or instructions be liable for any direct, indirect, or consequential damages resulting from their use.

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Be Sure You Have Your Paperwork In Order

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A divorce or custody case requires a lot of paperwork. All of it needs to be complete, in order, and accurate when representing yourself in court or else you might have to go back to court after your hearing date. Find out what types of paperwork you will need depending on the type of case you have. Check with your family law assistance group and also with the clerk of the court. Many times, specific templates are needed, so dont print something off of the Internet without being sure that its the correct form for your state or district.

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Dress Appropriately For Court

You only get one chance to make a good first impression with the judge, so its important to dress and present yourself appropriately when representing yourself in court. First, choose an outfit that is conservative and appropriate to wear to a business meeting. For women, this might be a skirt or pants and a blouse, sweater, or neat knit top. For men, this will generally be a pair of dress slacks and a button-down shirt with a tie. Pay attention to your shoes they should be dress shoes that are clean, in good condition, and dont call attention to themselves.

Consider covering tattoos that might attract undue attention when representing yourself in court. Dont wear anything that promotes a political party or social organization if you have a judge who is of the opposite political persuasion, this could cause a bad impression. If you have hair that is an unnatural color, consider dying it a more natural color. Dont cover it with a hat, though those are not appropriate for the courtroom unless it is required by your religion.

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