Florida Divorce Paperwork– Do You Really Need a Lawyer?

 

Couples wanting to get a divorce often wonder whether they need a lawyer for their divorce paperwork, or whether they can do it on their own.

The answer to the question will usually depend on whether you want a divorce without war—one where you both agree on everything without wondering about your rights under Florida divorce laws.

The ability for you and your spouse to do a divorce without a lawyer will begin to disappear the moment you and your spouse have a disagreement which leads either of you to wonder about your rights under Florida divorce laws.

When either of you have a question about your rights under Florida divorce law, and you need that answer in order to convince your spouse that what you want is the “right” answer under the law, the chances of you having a divorce without some war decrease. Your spouse will then go see another lawyer to find out if it’s true; and depending on what they tell the lawyer and what the lawyer understands, the answer to the question may be very different than the one you got.

The simplest answer is that a divorce can be done by the parties without a lawyer, provided they don’t really need legal advice and know the risks involved in doing so.

The danger of not using a divorce lawyer in Florida (or anywhere else, really) is that you risk giving up rights provided to you under the law which you may not be able to regain after the divorce is done. Alimony rights are an example of this under Florida law—if you didn’t claim it while the divorce was going on and change your mind after the divorce decree, you are out of luck.

Moreover, if you and your spouse are in disagreement or outright fighting over anything, being able to do the divorce just by filling out some paperwork and without an attorney will usually be more difficult.

In terms of the paperwork itself, the Florida Supreme Court provides family forms for divorce in Florida. They can be downloaded from their website for free. For the most part, the forms are kept up to date and can provide a way to do a divorce without attorneys. But as you can tell from a glimpse at the instructions for the forms, there are a lot of warnings and requirements for many of these forms.

As a lawyer, I think the Family Law Forms for divorce are good for you to do your own divorce, without a lawyer, IF:

  1. you and your spouse have no children;
  2. have no property or debt;
  3. both of you don’t care what rights you have under Florida divorce laws; and
  4. you both agree that you want to get a divorce.

Even if you think that describes you perfectly, realize that representing yourself in a Florida divorce court throughout your divorce will require some effort on your part. It isn’t just a question of filling out and filing the divorce paperwork—you need to be attentive to your case while it’s pending in court, especially with the constant budget cuts from the Florida legislature which make it less likely that there are services provided by the clerks, or enough clerks to provide timely service.

© 2009-2014 Vivian Rodriguez

Vivian C. Rodriguez, Esq.  is a Miami divorce and paternity attorney. For articles about  Florida family law, visit  the Articles page at FLDivorcePaternityLawyer.com or the MiamiDivorcePaternityBlog.

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