Can I represent myself in family law court?

The simpler your marriage the more likely it is that you will be able to handle your divorce without hiring a lawyer.

By Karen A. Covy, J.D.
January 18, 2012
IL FAQ/Legal Issues/DIY (Pro Se) Divorce

Yes, you can represent yourself in court. The real question, however, is whether that’s a good idea.

If you have only been married a short time, and you have few assets, no children, and enough brains, time, and patience to muddle through the process yourself, then you may not need to hire a lawyer to represent you. Your final judgment might not win any awards for legal writing, but if you have nothing to divide anyway, who cares? On the other hand, if you’ve been married for a long time, if you own property together, if you have children, if you have retirement accounts to divide, if you or your spouse needs maintenance or support after the divorce, or if you and your spouse don’t agree on everything, then representing yourself is generally a very bad idea.

Divorce law isn’t rocket science, but if you don’t know what the law is and you’re not familiar with the court process, then representing yourself can be both frustrating and foolish. A good divorce attorney knows what issues generally arise in divorce and can advise you on the best possible way to deal with them. A good attorney knows how to write a parenting agreement that won’t leave you and your spouse fighting more over the children after the divorce than you did while you were married. A good attorney knows what the judge will likely consider to be a fair settlement, what the right amount of child support should be, and what paperwork needs to be done to complete your case properly. So, unless you are sure you have nothing to lose, then by getting a lawyer you will have everything to gain.

Karen A. Covy, J.D. is a divorce attorney and family law mediator in Chicago Illinois . She is the author of When Happily Ever After Ends, How to Survive Your Divorce Emotionally, Financially and Legally.

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January 18, 2012
Categories:  FAQs

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