You’ve likely heard the old adage that he who acts as his own lawyer has a fool for a client. If your soon-to-be-former spouse decides to act like a fool and not retain a lawyer, what impact will that have on your divorce case?
To be fair, it may be the case that your spouse’s lack of a lawyer isn’t due to foolishness. It could be that he or she simply can’t afford a divorce attorney. Regardless, if your divorce is uncontested and amicable, and you don’t have significant assets or children, the impact of your spouse’s self-representation may be minimal.
But whether it is because of a lack of funds or a lack of good judgment, their decision to represent themselves in a contested or complicated divorce can make it more challenging. Here are three issues that can arise if your spouse doesn’t have a divorce lawyer:
- Delay. You can still file for divorce and serve the necessary summons on your spouse if they don’t have a lawyer. However, if they decide to be uncooperative they may try to avoid service of the papers, which can delay the proceedings
Delay can be a problem throughout the case without a lawyer on the other side. Your spouse’s lack of understanding of the law, court procedures, and filing requirements can slow things down. If your spouse fails to file necessary paperwork with the court, or files a document that doesn’t comply with court rules, the judge may give them extra time to correct the issue.
- Confusion and conflict. Without advice from a lawyer, your spouse may also have incorrect assumptions about what they are entitled to and what their obligations are. Perhaps they received some bad information from a friend or read something online that simply isn’t the case. From child support to property division to custody, their ignorance of the law can lead to conflicts and disputes that may have been avoided if your spouse had counsel who could tell them what was what.
- It’s not business, it’s personal. Of course emotions play a role in divorce. When both parties have attorneys to voice their concerns, protect their rights, and negotiate on their behalf, the rancor and animosity between the spouses can be isolated from the business of getting the divorce done. Negotiating with someone whose judgment and reason is eclipsed by raw emotion is another matter. Not only can it decrease the likelihood of a negotiated resolution, it can make the process much more contentious and emotionally taxing.
At Clement Law, we provide trusted counsel and effective advocacy to individuals in New York and New Jersey going through the transition of divorce. While thorough and aggressive, we help clients resolve their cases in novel and creative ways in order to minimize strife and reach a positive resolution. If you’d like to discuss any issues relating to divorce, please give us a call at (212) 683-9551 or fill out our online form to arrange for a consultation. We look forward to assisting you.