“Pro se” is Latin meaning “for oneself.” In divorce, it means not retaining legal counsel for any step of the divorce process: filing the paperwork to serve the other spouse divorce papers; negotiating a settlement of all assets, financial support, and custody; and finally, filing the final papers in court, including the Marital Settlement Agreement.
Pro se can be tempting, especially when a divorce is uncontested and seems amicable. It saves a lot of money in attorney fees. However, in the long run, it may cost you. There are many important reasons to retain counsel from an experienced divorce lawyer from the onset.
The most important reason is simply that the law is extensive, confusing, and time-consuming. Lawyers spend many years learning and developing experience so they can navigate the courts, the paperwork, the arguments, the research, and the proper legal terminology to provide you with the very best outcome for you and your children. You don’t know many of the loopholes and exceptions that could work against you, or the additional opportunities that might work in your favor. Not knowing these things could cost you a bundle.
Additionally, a divorce may start out amicably, but emotions often run high and disagreements emerge when trying to reach settlement. Then the process ceases to be so agreeable. Often, if one partner has a stronger personality than the other, he or she can pressure or bully the other person into giving more than is actually fair. Having legal counsel makes this less likely to occur. And if one spouse suddenly decides to bring in a lawyer after the process has begun, the other ought to do so as well.
Other important reasons to retain legal counsel:
- There is a significant disparity of income (e.g., one spouse is a homemaker)
- One spouse has retirement plans that the other spouse would like to share
- Issues of fraud, abuse, addiction, or narcissism are involved or are suspected
- Children are involved
Divorce is a difficult process by its very nature. It’s our job to try to make it as easy as possible for you. Talk to us to see how we can help you navigate the divorce process with minimal stress on you and with maximum results.