Legal Representation - Can You Get a Divorce Without
CAN YOU GET A DIVORCE WITHOUT AN ATTORNEY?
Can you handle your own divorce proceedings with no attorney involvement? In many cases,
you certainly can. In fact, if there are no minor children of the marriage and you own
very limited assets, most attorneys would probably agree that this might be the best
solution, especially if it is an amicable divorce. Recent statistics shows that more
than half of all the family law cases filed in Colorado involve at least one “pro
If you do choose to represent yourself, dissolution packets are available at district
court clerks’ offices for a small fee. The packets include all the basic pleadings
that are required in a dissolution action. Instructions are also included. In addition,
you can download free forms through the state judicial website by clicking thru the “FORMS” button
on this website.
While there are many instances where representing yourself may make sense, pro se representation
is not the wisest choice for everyone. You sometimes need to be careful in even the cooperative
If there are significant assets such as pensions or homes to be divided, or
if you have minor children, there are “pitfalls of pro se” lurking
about which could have long-term, far-reaching negative effects, both to you
and your children.
you should always consult with an attorney if you are a victim of DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.
Unfortunately, there are many people who, not knowing the extent of their rights, or how
the system works, make very costly mistakes when representing themselves. While some
individuals realize that they are in need of help before final papers are signed, many
do not. For those who do not, the costs of mistakes can be extremely expensive to correct – oftentimes,
even more expensive than hiring an attorney in the first place would have been.
What can a lawyer do for me that I can’t do myself?
The attorney’s role in a dissolution case is far more complex then knowing how to
read and apply the law. When you retain an attorney, you are paying for her expertise
in many areas. An effective family law attorney will not only know which statutes to
apply to your case to achieve an “equitable” settlement, but she will also
typically have had years of experience dealing with the complexities involved in a dissolution
of marriage proceeding, including parenting issues, real estate, pensions, investment
plans, tax laws, evaluating assets, etc. Moreover, if the attorney does not have first
hand knowledge of a particularly difficult issue, she will typically have the resources
to quickly find someone who does. In the event that your case becomes contested, a good
attorney knows the “ins and outs” of court proceedings, including experience
with the judges and magistrates who preside over domestic cases.
In addition, a good attorney will maintain emotional distance and keep a “level
head” in the midst of the emotional turmoil of divorce. Because of the intense
emotional factor, even divorce attorneys are known to retain other attorneys to represent
them through a divorce. It is far too often that parties find themselves agreeing to
terms of a separation agreement just to “get the divorce over with” because
they want to move off the emotionally uncomfortable spot they are on.
Worse yet, pro se divorcing parties may not pay attention to the finer details of an agreement
because they believe they can trust their spouses to make the “correct” decisions,
or because they believe they can rely on verbal agreements. Alternatively, it is very
common for the parties to not know all of the specifics that should be addressed in a
settlement agreement. An attorney will help you consider the present and the future while
negotiating an agreement.
The attorney will guide you through the legal process and attempt to keep you from making
rash decisions, which you may later regret. The attorney is your advocate; she represents
your interests, protects your rights and tells you up front what your legal options are.
“But my cousin’s neighbor’s aunt told me……”
We all know someone, or more likely several people, who have been through the divorce
process. Many of these individuals have well-intentioned advice regarding your situation.
Some people may even believe they can tell you what the outcome of your divorce should
be and that you should not settle for anything different. Your friends and family may
try to tell you what “the law” is regarding settlement and custody disputes,
or they may urge you to find the nastiest, most aggressive attorney money can buy. While
it is understandable that these individuals want to help you, you should proceed with
caution when taking the legal “advice” of a non-attorney.
Every divorce is different, and therefore what happens in one situation will not happen
in a different situation. There are many factors that come into play when, for example,
settlement and parenting issues are decided. A good family law attorney will be able
to analyze all these things and recommend the strategy that may be most helpful.
Moreover, if you do decide to use an attorney, be sure to find someone with family law
expertise. While NO attorney can make absolute promises of how your case will turn out,
your chances of having a reasonable understanding of your rights will be better if you
consult an experienced family law practitioner. And, when hiring an attorney, always
remember that not even the nastiest or most aggressive attorney can guarantee an outcome.
All proceedings are dictated by the laws of the State of Colorado as interpreted by the
In addition, a good family law attorney will know what actions are most appropriate in
your case, when it makes sense to argue aggressively and when it is better to reach a
compromise. The attorney will know the current laws, where a friend or family member
may be relating stories of outcomes that were based on laws ten years ago. Even in just
one or two years a lot can change regarding domestic law. Every year new laws are passed
or changed in order to reflect the changing society.
Choosing an attorney
Choosing the “right attorney” can be a frustrating proposition. After all,
it isn’t every day that you need a divorce attorney. It is, however, important
that you find an attorney who you are comfortable with and with whom you can establish
a good working relationship. Throughout the process you will need to maintain effective
communication with that person. The attorney needs to have a clear understanding of the
specifics of your case, as well as your goals for the outcome. During the process, you
and your attorney should be functioning as a team. It may be advisable to interview several
attorneys in order to find one whom you feel comfortable with. You may also want to ask
to meet the attorney’s assistant or paralegal since this person will be working
on your case, and it is likely you will be speaking to him or her frequently during the
course of the case.
When you retain an attorney, you will be required to enter into a contract with him or
her. You will be asked to sign a fee agreement. ALWAYS read this document. If there is
something that you do not understand, or are not comfortable with, discuss it with the
However you choose to proceed with you dissolution case, please remember that it is not
an easy time, and it may help to attend counseling sessions or a divorce workshop to
help you stay emotionally stable. Divorce is not a “winning” situation, but
where faced with this sad reality, you owe it to yourself and to your children to know
your options and protect yourself as much as possible.
Early Planning for Divorce