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Is "Pro Se" Divorce for You?

If you have been married just a short time, or if both you and your spouse have few or no assets and no children, pro se divorce could be your ticket. But those who go down this path, while potentially saving money, place themselves at risk.

“While self-representation is a right, it is also a heavy burden for persons exercising this right,” Barrie Althoff, Washington State Bar Association Chief Disciplinary Counsel, recently wrote. “As our legal system tries to meet competing demands and needs of an increasingly complex society, the system itself becomes increasingly complex. Exercising the right to self-representation often becomes perilous to the self-represented person, a challenge to other participants in the system, and a strain on the system's limited resources. It is a right that most unrepresented persons would gladly give up if they could afford to retain legal counsel.”

Indeed, the sheer legal logistics of the divorce effort can be tedious and enormously time-consuming, involving a large number of individual, detailed steps and requiring meticulous attention to detail. Some of the tasks you will have to attend to include drafting pleadings, including all accompanying forms and affidavits; filing the pleadings with the court; paying the court fees or applying for a waiver for indigent litigants; and fulfilling and documenting any mandatory requirements, such as attending a parenting class. Are you attentive to detail, comfortable with paperwork, persistent, and able to meet deadlines? Are you comfortable using a library, super organized, and able to read others' reactions and modify your actions? If not, despite your best intentions—and unless you have no other choice—pro se divorce may not be for you.

The bottom line: you may want to talk to a lawyer about your case before deciding to represent yourself.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Surviving Divorce © 2002 by BookEnds, LLC. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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