Every person has the right to represent himself or herself in court. Some people may feel as though they do not need a lawyer or legal training to represent themselves. Others may believe their divorce is so simple or amicable that they don’t need an attorney. Choosing to handle your own divorce may work smoothly, or it might be a decision that negatively impacts not only your divorce, but your entire future.
In a truly uncontested divorce, involving no children or property, representing yourself may be viable. Many counties in Georgia provide the necessary forms, often on their websites for download. County clerk’s offices may help you file your complaint for divorce, and serve a copy of the complaint on your spouse. There are also pro se (the term for representing oneself) divorce clinics that can help you prepare for court hearings and provide other helpful information. Once you reach court, however, you are on your own.
Representing yourself in a divorce, when you have only been married a short time and have no children or assets, seems doable to many laypersons. However, even in relatively “simple” divorces, there is likely a lot at stake. An attorney may help you discover a retirement account that you’re entitled to share that you were unaware of. A small adjustment in a monthly child support payment or alimony award can add up to a huge financial difference over time, often more than the cost of an attorney’s services.
Representing yourself in a complex divorce, however, can be like performing surgery on yourself. When you have been married a long time, have children, or own any assets of value, you are probably doing yourself a disservice by going forward without an attorney.
If your spouse has an attorney, and you do not, it’s a good bet that any settlement agreement you sign will end up benefitting your spouse in ways that may not be readily apparent to a layperson. Even if you and your spouse have good intentions, the fact remains that your spouse’s lawyer is prohibited from giving you any legal advice whatsoever. Once you’ve signed an agreement without an attorney, it may be impossible for an attorney to later undo any damage.
If you are going through a divorce, simple or complex, you would be well-advised to consider hiring an attorney. The money you spend on an attorney can be well worth it when you consider that your economic future and custodial rights of your children are on the line.