Sometimes in life we simply haven’t got the resources for professional advice. Sometimes we have to go it alone. It can be scary but necessary. Self representing in divorce really should be a last resort though. Why? Because Divorce can be a little like a wild river rafting ride and you wouldn’t navigate that alone.
Picture this: The water starts out flat… You have your paddle to contribute to the direction of the raft. You have a leader who is a pro paddler keeping the raft on course, navigating through obstacles such as large boulders. Suddenly, without warning there are rapids that quickly turn into white water…The raft starts rocking and lifting. You are no longer
dry. You paddle as hard as you possibly can and feel as though you are making no difference. But the worst is yet to come…
Up ahead, the river seems to drop off completely. Your eyes widen, your heart beats faster as the raft approaches a ‘cliff’…DOWN, HARD…fast…You’re not sure you’re going to make it through…
Luckily you have a pro at the helm guiding the whole darn, wet mess. In fact they are even smiling, enjoying the ride…. They aren’t scared one bit and they reassure you that we’re all going to make it. Just as quickly as it started, you’re on flat water again. You’re more than a little wet but you’re safe. For now….
And that is how the divorce process can feel, a lot like an unpredictable and scary river raft ride. That is why you need a lawyer. Ideally, one with confidence who knows how to navigate through the system, avoiding costly obstacles and knowing when to pull the raft over or keep moving. The lawyers who only ride on flat water are the ones to avoid. A divorce is rarely indicative of flat, safe water so how will a lawyer who is afraid of a little white water going to help you?
BUT with that said, there are times a person simply cannot afford the cost of the lawyer. I understand this. I’ve been there. If your ex is dragging you through the system and just won’t quit, there may come a time when you run out of resources for legal representation. I recommend taking a look at your Legal Cost vs. Risk analysis. If your legal costs far outweigh your risk, than self representing makes financial and legal sense. This is an assessment only you can make for your situation.
Settling child support as a self represented litigant for example, is highly feasible. The child support laws and arguments for it are very straight forward and comparable to ‘flat water’. If you need to change an existing court order, this can be done quite simply as well, comparable to ‘light rapids’. However, as self represented, to resolve any legal matters in your divorce it is ESSENTIAL for you to prepare.
TIPS for the self represented litigant or defendant;
(The below list is meant a a quick reference. Please read my article Deadbeat 911 for specific details and further resource links…)
Do your research-find cases similar to yours on-line and from your city, State, Province or
Quote and be familiar with cases similar to yours that are favorable to an outcome you want (these are referred to as case precedents)
Study specific areas of divorce law to ensure what you are asking for is within your legal rights
Visit your local courthouse and find resources and people who can assist you (i.e. a library or a help centre)
Familiarize yourself with the process for filing your documents (how many copies do you need, where do you line up, how much does it cost?)
Spend an hour in a family law courtroom and observe lawyers and their arguments and the Judge’s demeanor (this will boost your confidence)
Prepare an affidavit if necessary –see a Sample Affidavit
Prepare your arguments-stick to the facts
Type out what you are going to say in the courtroom, word for word (this way you don’t have to think about what you’re going to say next because it’s all written down)
Anticipate questions you may be asked and have answers prepared
It is a last resort to self represent however, sometimes we have little choice. Sometimes we have to face legal challenges alone. You can do it armed with some confidence and the right information. Do a little homework, know exactly what you’re asking for and you’ll be able to ride the light rapids. Riding the whitewater might be a different story but light rapids without a pro paddler is definitely doable. You are brave. You are strong. You are capable. Enjoy the ride…
Did you ever have to self represent? Share one tip for those facing legal challenges alone…