FloridaDivorce: The 1 Thing You Need to Know to Represent Yourself in Divorce Court
Everyone has the right to represent themselves in court, whether in a civil or criminal case. But if you do decide to represent yourself in a divorce, what is the number one thing you should know to be able to represent yourself in a way that will allow you resolve the pending problems effectively?
The short answer is: when you are representing yourself in a Florida divorce, you need to be as prepared as an attorney would be.
Over the last few months I have represented parties in cases where the other spouse or parent (in paternity cases) was unrepresented. In at least two of these cases, the sitting judge has informed the party without an attorney that he or she has to be held to the same standard as any attorney appearing before the court.
What this means to you if you are thinking of representing yourself in divorce court is this: You need to come into court with the appropriate proof (or evidence) to prove your claim. It isn’t a question of saying this or that; it is a question of providing the court relevant proof that will hold up in court to prove your claim or to defend against claims made by the other party.
Sometimes it is not a question of proving with document, photographs, videos, etc.; but of knowing what has to be proved and the questions to ask when there is no “hard” evidence to prove it.
There are only two consequences possible when you represent yourself before the court but fail to prepare. The worst consequence is that the matter being decided by the court is NOT decided in your favor but in that of other party. In some instances, there may be no immediate way to resolve this short of an appeal, which is costly—if you are representing yourself because you think you cannot afford an attorney then you will also not be able to pay an appeals lawyer because they are really expensive.
The other possible consequence is that the judge continues your hearing. This is actually not as bad as it sounds because now you know what you can or cannot do—and you now have a chance to try and prepare for it. In fact, you actually now have more information about the process, what needs to be done. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you know how to do it for the next time but at least you have an idea of what going to court is like.
Another reason why a continuation of your hearing is a good thing is because you know have the opportunity to see if you can get a lawyer to help you, even if it’s just for that hearing. Call divorce lawyers and find out if they do limited representation, which means they would help represent you for just that hearing and the preparation for that hearing.
© 2010-2014 Vivian Rodriguez
Vivian Rodriguez is a divorce and paternity attorney in Florida. For articles about Florida divorce and paternity, visit the Articles page at FLDivorcePaternityLawyer.com.
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