Divorces can already seem overwhelming if you are one of the parties in the divorce. They can seem even more monumental if you just don't have the money to afford a full-time Rhode Island divorce lawyer to prepare the documents for you.
I strongly advise that you seek coaching from a qualified Rhode Island divorce lawyer who is willing to provide you with consistent coaching throughout your divorce at a reasonable price so that you can at least represent yourself in an informed manner.
Alternatively, if you have to go through the divorce process by yourself, I have a suggestions that may be helpful. To the extent that I may be a bit frank and offend a few people, my apologies, but there are many people who will benefit more from a frank statement of the facts of the way things are, than there are those who will learn by words that would be a bit more sugar-coated.
With that said, her's is what I'll call my "Don't Primer",
Don't sit on your hands!
The single best thing you can do for yourself in a divorce is to get the information you need to get through it. If you're going to sit on your hands and represent yourself, then you are probably going to be lucky enough to find yourself being humiliated in front of a courtroom full of people because you have no clue what you are doing and the judge is less than happy that you are now wasting the court's time.
Don't expect anyone to hand you the information you need to handle your divorce!
There is no single book or set of instructions to tell you exactly what to do every step of the way. If it were that simple, there would be no need for divorce lawyers. So let's be clear . . . don't expect someone to lay this stuff at your feet and spoon feed it to you as if you were entitled to it. If you want to do this yourself it is going to take some work! Expecting it to be handed to you is just the same as expecting it to be easy . . . and it isn't . . . so don't expect it to be.
If you can afford a divorce lawyer, don't think that just because you're a "do-it-yourself" type person that you don't need a lawyer.
I don't care how confident you may be that you can handle your divorce yourself simply because you have a Masters in Business Administration or because you are a Certified Public Accountant. If you gave me 15 minutes I could give you 10 scenarios that you wouldn't have a clue how to handle in a Rhode Island divorce situation. If you can afford a divorce lawyer then get the help of one. In the end, you don't call a priest to fix a leaky pipe and you don't call an MBA or a CPA for a divorce.
Be realistic about what you can handle. Don't think you can learn it all!
There is only so much you can learn about divorce in order to handle your divorce proceeding. Divorce law and procedure are not stagnant. They do not occur in a vaccum. The law is always changing, new cases are constantly being ruled upon that affect the state laws, and new administrative orders may exist that change the way divorces are handled. Many of these things could slip by even the most diligent legal practitioner, so do not think that you can be or are as good as a lawyer who has been practicing in the family court for years. Take time to learn the fundamentals. There is something to be said for sports greats who attribute their fame to mastering the fundamentals, the same can hold true for law and Rhode Island divorce law is no exception.
Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it yourself!
The only exception I make to this rule is . . . unless it's an experienced divorce lawyer who knows you are dealing with a complex issue that even a seasoned practitioner would be challenged by. If you're going to attempt your own divorce, you need to be confident and well-learned, but not cocky. There are things that you won't be able to handle on your own and you need to be able to respect the fact that there are some things that you may need an experienced divorce lawyer or Rhode Island divorce coach to help you through. Should you get to that point you may say to yourself, but I can't afford to have a lawyer . . . but the question may be serious enough or worth enough in assets or debt that you may need to ask yourself the reverse question . . . can you truly afford to be without a divorce lawyer?
Christopher A. Pearsall, Attorney-at-Law
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