Doing Your Own Divorce - Pro Se
A divorce in which each spouse represents himself or herself in filing documents and/or appearing in court without a lawyer is a pro se divorce. Pro se means "for yourself."
Pro se divorce works best in cases where the action is uncontested and without fault, in termination of a short-term marriage, both spouses working, easily distributed assets and debts. When the parties control their own worst impulses, including revenge and selfishness, filing pro se can cut costs.
Pro se filing also works best where both spouses file as co-petitioners or both sign a Marital Settlement Agreement, or a default divorce, where one spouse files and the other spouse does not respond or participate. One or both of these options are available in most states.
Pro se filing is not recommended for divorces where one spouse wants to use litigation as a way of punishing an estranged partner. A competent attorney advises against such gratuitous maneuvers because in the end, vengeful people shoot themselves in the foot -- emotionally and financially.
A friendly divorce is probably an oxymoron. A civil or amicable divorce, however, not only saves money but also makes it possible for the former spouses to effectively parent their children. An ugly, knock-down fight poisons the well forever, and the children suffer for it.
Judges prefer that couples settle divorces out of court in an uncontested fashion. When spouses cannot themselves agree to a settlement, typically their lawyers reach one eventually, but these negotiations run up the cost of the action (divorce). When divorcing couples can negotiate with each many turn to pro se filing to eliminate unnecessary legal fees. In jurisdictions offering summary or simplified divorces, the involvement of the court moves to the vanishing point because only routine questions of law, not fact, are at issue. In some cases, the divorcing spouses do not even have to appear.
Pro se divorce costs less, so there is more money left for the newly divorced people to start anew as single people. They will need this money because even without jaw-dropping legal bills, divorce is expensive in more ways than one.
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