Quite often I’m asked: we are all in agreement, do I need to hire a lawyer? Can we just “fill out the divorce papers”? Can I represent myself in a divorce?
My advice is always the same: by law you are allowed to represent yourself in any lawsuit, but I wouldn’t represent myself, do surgery on myself, or try to do any serious plumbing. I’m usually then confronted with a surprised: “why are you talking about a lawsuit, we just want to get divorced!” (And for the record: there are no “papers” to fill out!)
A DIVORCE IS A LAWSUIT. Anytime you seek a court order it is through a lawsuit. While you may represent yourself, you are held to the same standard as an experienced attorney. The Clerks and Judge may NOT give you any legal advice — they are not your lawyer. As a result, when people represent themselves (called being pro se), everyone tends to end up very frustrated. Judges are faced with 2 choices: refuse to sign any proposed order without explaining why OR sign whatever you put before them even if it severely harms you.
The other key problem is that there are limited — and very costly — options to “fix” prior orders once they become final. At minimum, pay a lawyer to review anything long before you take it to the courthouse so they can help ensure you are getting what you think you are getting from your orders. Most lawyers — and certainly the divorce lawyers at the Eaker Law Firm — will meet and review documents with you for an hourly fee without actually representing you. Often in such meetings you can learn why you may need them to formally represent you or just feel more comfortable about how everything works.
- If you have (a) only been married a couple years, (b) have very limited assets, (c) have no children, and (d) have no real estate (houses or land), you are the only type person I would recommend visit TexasLawHelps.org. There you can find some forms made by the Supreme Court to help people get divorced on their own. If any of the above don’t describe your situation, the pitfalls from using such forms is just too great.
- If you really think you can do this on your own, at minimum consult with a lawyer. That $300-$500 you may pay to consult with someone experienced will be well worth it.
- NEVER hire a “paralegal” to do what a lawyer is licensed to do. You will find such people online but they are practicing law without a license and you are in seriously dangerous territory. Just don’t do it.