If you and your husband are both in agreement on wanting a divorce, an uncontested divorce, and wanting to do it without involving attorneys, you can file for divorce yourselves and only pay the filing fees. This is called a “Do-It-Yourself” or “Pro Se” divorce from the Latin adjective meaning “for self,” that is applied to someone who represents himself or herself without a lawyer in a court proceeding.

Pro se divorce is filing for divorce without the use of a lawyer. It is compulsory that both parties file for the pro se divorce, instead of one opting for a lawyer and the other doing a pro se divorce.

Divorce is one of those areas of the law where attorneys are not allowed to represent the client on a contingency basis. It is not usual to find litigants in the family or domestic relations court without legal counsel. There are situations when it may not be necessary to have legal counsel to pursue a divorce. Some examples are:

  • The marriage is of short duration;
  • There are no property or spousal support issues;
  • The parties have amicably settled the issues between themselves
    through a separation;
  • There are no children;
  • Neither party can afford representation.

There may also be situations where you could use a combination of a pro se divorce and legal representation. You should definitely have the initial paperwork reviewed by an experienced attorney before filing the papers. This will save a lot of time in the long run if the papers aren’t filled out properly.

If there is some concern about issues involving property, custody or support, then you can always retain legal counsel and have them enter an appearance on your behalf for a custody or property division matter, if you live in a jurisdiction where custody, support and property division are considered ancillary matters—in other words matters that the court rules on after granting a divorce. Issues such as dividing marital property, child custody, alimony and child support can have long-lasting, negative consequences if not handled properly.

In a perfect world, having legal counsel is best, but if your only option is a pro se divorce, seriously consider using the forms of alternative dispute resolution. One would be mediation. Mediators are impartial, and it puts you on an equal footing with your spouse even if he or she can afford legal counsel.

Also, those in the military cannot use this method to file for divorce. A lawyer is compulsory for a military divorce.


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