Five Reasons to Represent Yourself in High-Conflict Divorce Disputes:
- You know your case better than anyone.
You are the best advocate for your case as you know what happened, when, and all the details of your relationship. It has most likely taken you years to get to the decision to divorce and to collect and find all the information (and evidence) that you need for your case can seem overwhelming. If it is going to be time consuming for you to gather your data, imagine how much a lawyer will charge you to go through all of your documents and relationship history. A lawyer may be a legal expert but if you have a sneaky or high-conflict spouse, he or she will make every step of the process difficult and expensive.
You know the main issues and, hopefully, your end goals. You have a huge stake in the outcome, so you may be able to argue more effectively for yourself to a Judge or jury. This also means that you are privy to all conversations between your spouse’s lawyer and the Judge. Being organized and keeping your emotions in check, will demonstrate your credibility to the Judge.
- You have a right to represent yourself in court.
Court procedures and rules of evidence are designed by and for lawyers and judges. For the average pro se litigant, this can be daunting. You have a right to represent yourself in court. You pay for the courts and they should not be designed for the advantage of lawyers and judges at the expense of average citizens. You can do the necessary research and understand the case, so why not represent yourself in court?
If you are divorcing a high conflict person, you will want to learn about your rights (so that you can exercise them) Most Courts now have Pro Se help desks and law libraries to help you learn more about the divorce process. These resources cannot give you legal advice but, if you do the work, you stand a much better chance of either winning or getting a more favorable decision. Being empowered with knowledge puts you in a stronger position and it will make you more self-assured. When average citizens use the courts, they assert their rights to constitutional due process.
- You can’t afford a lawyer.
You may not have enough money to hire an attorney, especially if you believe that your case may take more than a year. Many retainers are used up before the case ever gets to court. If you are divorcing a high conflict personality, I can guarantee you that it will. If you hire an attorney and win, you either will have paid out lots of money (possibly Junior’s college money) or the attorney will take a huge amount off the top per the contract that you signed for their services. If you lose, you are responsible for the fees that you incurred and maybe even the attorney for the opposing party. Your attorney will not share the loss with you. So, if you cannot afford a lawyer, you might fare better if you represent yourself in court.
- You do not have to be intimidated by the legal process.
This is the best reason of all! You are smart enough and the court is here to serve you as a citizen. The court system can be intimidating, and it is understandable that you might be a bit fearful, but don’t let it stop you from having your day in court. Lawyers have no right to intimidate pro se litigants. Do not allow an attorney to elevate their needs and those of their client above your own. Show up and stand up.
- You will work much harder for yourself than an attorney will.
No one cares more about your case than you. When you represent yourself, you do the research, you drive to the courthouse, you write and file documents, and you attend all court dates. Your attorney may spend four hours a week on your case. You might spend ten. You may be able to find important details or arguments an attorney may miss. This may make a huge difference to your outcome.
Tip: Enlisting the help of a Certified Divorce Coach who understands high-conflict divorce can save you time and money and lower your stress levels significantly in your divorce. Certified Divorce Coaches, who are well versed in the court process and high-conflict personalities, can help you immensely and are usually about one-third the cost of an attorney.
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