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Why Self-Representation is Not Recommended in a Divorce Case

Self-representation, also termed as ‘Pro Per’ or ‘Pro Se’, is when you decide to state your own divorce case in the court rather than hiring an attorney to represent you. While this may seem like a good option in terms of saving the attorney fees, self-representation, in reality, poses numerous disadvantages, especially in the long run. According to a survey conducted by the ABA Coalition for Justice, it is not just the law firms or the lawyers who discourages you from representing yourself but the court system itself. The reason is that self-representing individuals are most often unprepared and are unfamiliar with the court proceedings. This puts an extra burden on the court system. Following are some of the obvious disadvantages of ‘Pro Se’.

Dealing with the opposition party’s attorney

If your spouse is also representing himself/herself in the divorce case, then your decision to self-represent may still make sense. However, if your spouse has hired an attorney to represent him/her in the case, then your chance of winning the case is almost nil, realistically. Think about it, you will be going against someone who has a deep knowledge of divorce laws. Even if the attorney is a novice, he/she would still be proficient on the divorce laws. A seasoned attorney who is proficient in both the state and the local laws will know what to ask and when to ask to get the most desired outcome. At the end of the day, going head to head with an attorney is just not practical.

Filling and filing forms

When you hire an attorney, all you have to do is fill up the divorce forms. Your attorney will even help to fill up those complicated forms. He/she will then file it at the right place, at the right time. When you are self-representing, you may struggle filling up the forms. You may also find it difficult to find out where exactly those forms need to be filed. Failing to file the forms before the deadlines may further complicate the process for you.

Representing yourself when you are emotionally drained

A divorce can put enormous stress on you. You may be constantly fighting with your spouse while at home. You may have a lot of pressure at the office. By the time you enter the court and stand in front of the judge, you may be harboring a lot of sadness, frustration, and anger. Standing in the court, in front of the judge, in front of a lot of attorneys, and in front of all the other people in the court itself can be intimidating. On top of that, stating your case when your emotional state is in such a fragile state can be quite an effort. You will not be able to effectively represent yourself.

It is not unusual for self-representing parties to find it necessary to bring in an attorney during the later part of the divorce proceedings by paying them a higher fee, since they will have to fix the issues caused as a result of self-representation.

Getting divorced in California can be complicated.  Download our free eBook, 18 Important Things to Know About California Divorce to educate yourself on the process.  

divorce_attorneyGerald A. Maggio is an experienced Orange County divorce and family law attorney and family law attorney located in Irvine, California, serving the Orange County and Riverside areas. Mr. Maggio assists clients with legal issues including divorce, legal separation, divorce mediation, child custody, prenuptial agreements, stepparent adoptions, and other family law issues. Mr. Maggio has practiced law in California since 1999, and founded The Maggio Law Firm in 2005, focusing exclusively on divorce and family law matters.

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