Authored By: Christopher Pearsall, RI Divorce Attorney
a.k.a. " The Rhode Island Divorce Coach ℠ "
There's no doubt that the economy is tight for everyone and money is scarce. That factor alone is enough to explain why people are filing their own divorces and trying to save money by not hiring lawyers to take them through the Rhode Island divorce process.
Yet if you are going to go this route and not even bother to speak to a lawyer and get some solid legal advice regarding your rights, then you need to understand that there are consequences to your actions.
Here are three (3) important points that you should consider:
Point No. 1: Judge's do not protect you. - You are responsible for protecting your own rights, plain and simple. It doesn't matter if judges ask you fundamental questions to lead you through your divorce. These questions are only fundamental and judges who may be helpful are trying to move their calendar along. It is not their job to protect your legal rights. Only you know the facts and circumstances of your life, your assets, your debts, the gifts you have received from third parties, any items or funds you may have inherited, your children, who the primary caretaker is, etc.... These are the things an attorney would ask about in order to advise you about your legal rights, options and alternatives.
Yet a judge isn't allowed to give you legal advice. So when you answer basic questions because you came before the judge willing to risk your legal rights based on your own knowledge, you need to know that a judge's guidance through the proceeding with basic questions means "nothing" except that a judge is covering just enough to be able to render a decision in the case. If you miss something important during the divorce proceeding because a judge doesn't address something that should be addressed in your divorce, then you should know that you may have risked losing your rights or even waived it all together.
Point No. 2: Be Prepared to Pay the Price. - The vast majority of people who go before the court and represent themselves (Pro Se) in their own divorces don't think of everything that a good divorce lawyer does. Every day that I'm in court I see people represent themselves. I hear them in the hallway and they mention something that I know is very important in their divorce. Yet when they go before the court, nothing is mentioned about it whatsoever.
So what happens? Plan to be back in court. Yes, I'm serious! A good many Pro Se divorce litigants will, in fact, be forced to go back before the court to try to fix something from their goofed divorce. Yet this time don't expect a judge to lead you through anything. Judge's may ask a few questions in post-judgment divorce matters because you are not doing a very good job explaining the issue, however, it will still be up to you to make a legal and/or factual argument.
In the end, by my estimation about 8 out of 10 people fall flat on their face, waste their time, lose time from work and get no relief from the court whatsoever and are told that they should have had a lawyer or at least received solid advice from one before they handled their own divorce. So, in the end if you are one of those 8 out of 10 who have to court, be prepared for the hard facts. You may have to pay the price for not getting coaching from a regularly practicing attorney in the family courts and find there is nothing you can do after the fact.
Point No. 3 - Doing Things Right Doesn't Cost a Fortune. I understand that money is tight. I also understand that people want to save money every where they can. Yet your legal rights in a divorce proceeding is NOT the place to get so cheap that you don't go and find out about your legal rights and figure out what to do.
There aren't any books that tell you about the rights that are important to your particular case. Nor are there any books that explain to you the procedure of even a Nominal Divorce and the "why" of each step so that you understand what you are doing and the consequences.
Even this website does not cover everything in detail because each couple's life is different. Perhaps someday I will write an extensive book on the subject but that is for another day.
Five years ago I developed a coaching program which I believe to be reasonably affordable and spaced out so that people could know their rights, understand the process, understand the law and the courts at least generally and get a grip on their own situation and how to correctly process their own divorce.
Despite it's affordability and the chance to space out Coaching sessions so that people wouldn't have to spend thousands up front on a lawyer but they could know their rights, etc... and make sure they took care of their divorce correctly. Not being informed is a poor way to conduct your divorce. Affordability and knowing your rights is only a telephone number and a small payment away.
Yet strangely enough people are complaining about the cost of knowing their rights and what it has taken my years to learn. It has even taken me additional years to be able to present each stage in an understandable yet comprehensive way in a reasonable amount of time.
Your rights aren't something to play with. You only have one chance to put your divorce through correctly! Don't be foolish! One mistake can make a huge difference.
Even now I am helping pro se individuals repair issues caused when they drafted their own marital settlement agreement and forgot to consider what might happen if different things were to happen.
In several cases the use of the a word that was close but not quite what was meant by one of the parties caused a tremendous problem years later.
Take the time to get it done right. Knowing your rights for a few hundred dollars is an investment well-worth making. It certainly beats a mistake that can cost you thousands.Google