Self-Representation in a Divorce Action
There is no requirement that parties to a divorce action hire an attorney to represent them during the divorce proceedings. Either party or both parties may represent themselves during their divorce proceedings. Whether one chooses to represent themselves or hire an attorney, it is a personal choice. One should weigh the advantages and disadvantages involved in self-representation.
One may believe that there are a lot of advantages to self-representation. The biggest advantage to self-representation is the cost. The party does not have to pay an attorney to draft or file any documents. Further, the party representing themselves may do research to gather information on the divorce procedures in her state. The party may also purchase a kit explaining divorce procedures. Typically, the party may obtain the necessary forms from the court or may download them from the Internet. The party may also feel like they can complete the divorce process in a more expedient manner without the assistance of an attorney.
There are numerous disadvantages to self-representation. First, if the opposing party has retained an attorney for representation during the divorce proceedings, the self-representing party is required to deal with the opposing party's attorney. Dealing with an attorney as a lay person may be very difficult. Also, the attorney knows information about the divorce process that the lay person generally does not know. Second, attorneys are knowledgeable about courtroom procedures and lay people generally are not. It may be very difficult for a party to enter a courtroom, which may be intimidating, and represent himself or herself before a judge. Third, if the party opts to represent themselves, they may be harboring a lot of anger, sadness, or may be in a fragile emotional state and may not be able to effectively represent themselves. Fourth, if a lot of discovery is required during the divorce proceedings, the self-representing party may have a difficult time complying with the discovery requests and may not know of all of the potential discovery tactics. Last, the self-representing party may not be aware of all of the tactics used in divorce proceedings with respect to, among other things, dividing property and debts. Although the court has an obligation to ensure that any type of divorce settlement is fair and equitable, the court is not only looking out for the self-representing person, they are also looking out for the opposing party, whether represented or not.