It's one thing not to have enough money to hire a lawyer for representation in your divorce. It's another thing altogether because you simply don't want to pay a lawyer ANY money at all to make sure your divorce is done right.
The fact is, that divorce lawyers exist for a reason and serve a valuable purpose. The law is often not all black and white. Yet at times even one word makes a difference.
Jacob (not his real name) came to me after he and his wife completed their own divorce by agreement and his wife decided to move half way across the country.
Their divorce was, in fact, rather simple. They went through their proceeding and his wife agreed to sign a quitclaim deed so he could be awarded the house they were living in because the mortgage was in his name and there was no equity in it.
They had a quick 10 minute hearing in one of our counties family courts. Then they stopped at the clerk's desk and an assistant clerk gave them a sample of the temporary order (technically known as the Interlocutory Decision Pending Entry of the Final Judgment) and a few minutes later that had handwritten the Decision and submitted it to the judge for approval and had the clerk enter it.
Jacob was very proud of himself until he ran into a problem. Several months down the road his wife would not sign a quitclaim deed awarding him the house. He wanted to know how to force her to sign the document quickly because he had a refinance commitment from a lender and he was required to refinance by a certain date by the judge. He was in a pickle.
Jacob came to me. I read the Decision they wrote up at the court. I explained the rather lengthy process Jacob would need to get his wife to sign a quitclaim deed and that it wouldn't be easy since she was now living across the country and less and cooperative. There were other issues but Jacob was stuck because of the timeframe for the refinance.
I explained to Jacob that he should get the transcript of the judge's decision and see exactly what the judge had ordered. I was hoping Jacob had made a mistake and that it could be changed more easily with the court and possibly get him out of his difficulty.
Jacob had missed one word in the decision. Yes... one small word. If the word had been present in the handwritten decision then Jacob could actually have filed the Final Judgment of divorce and actually used the Final Judgment as a deed to the property by recording it in the Land Evidence Records where the property is located. Without that "one" important word, the Decision Pending Entry of the Final Judgment and the Final Judgment of Divorce which had to match it were useless when it came to using it as a deed under an older and seldom used Rhode Island Law.
Now Jacob was faced with spending hundred's of dollars to get things fixed and get the property transferred into his name.
Jacob chose to avoid using my services at a cost of only $145 for one hour to make sure the Interlocutory Decision Pending Entry of the Final Judgment was prepared correctly. That one choice ended up coming to me anyway and will now cost him lost time from work, delay of his Final Judgment, the purchase of the hearing transcript and a hearing on two motions two months from now to fix the issues.
It wasn't worth it. jacob lost an excellent refinance rate, had to change all his plans, needed to spend more money than necessary and still has to find out whether the court will grant will grant him the relief he is requesting.
Yes, if you are representing yourself it is simply too easy without some experienced professional legal help to make a mistake in your divorce of even ONE WORD that can cost you more than you imagine.
Do yourself a favor. Get a little coaching from me before you take the chance of making a mess because you missed something small. I saw jacob's problem within 5 minutes after our appointment began. Jacob wasn't happy with the difference one word made but he was glad I was there to help him fix it before it got worse.
All my Best to All Who Go Before the Rhode Island Family Court,
I am Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall and I am "The Rhode Island Divorce Coach."