Pro Se Divorce: Everything You Need to Know About Handling Divorce without an Attorney

In situations when the financial implications of divorce are of the utmost importance, many married couples will begin to consider the more cost-effective options. One of them is pro se divorce, and it affords you more breathing room with your finances than many of the other choices. For some couples, a pro se divorce is considered to be the least expensive method, but it can only be effectively implemented under certain circumstances, which involve individuals who are willing to do the work required.

Find out more of what you should know about pro se divorces by reading these frequently asked questions:

In Legal Terms, What Does Pro Se Mean?

The legalese behind terms like pro se can make it difficult to understand exactly what you may be facing. In this case, the Latin definition of this terms easily translates into “for oneself.” A pro se divorce essentially means that you plan to file for divorce without an attorney, or you may plan to represent yourself in lieu of obtaining legal counsel.

This method of divorce tends to work best in uncomplicated situations between spouses, typically those that do not involve children. Dividing finances and assets without the assistance of an attorney can still be a difficult undertaking, so it is recommended to consider this method only when there is very little to divide between the two of you. If you are considering a pro se divorce, good communication is a must, as it is most effective when the divorce will be uncontested. Therefore, both spouses need to be able to agree on a resolution without legal aide.

Do You Need a Lawyer to File for Divorce?

While you may not be required to have an attorney to file for divorce, many individuals opt to put one on retainer. A pro se divorce can be a complicated, time-consuming affair that you should prepare for in advance. The good news is that you are legally able to file your own paperwork to set your divorce in motion, and walk it all the way through to its final stages.

However, in order to have it correctly finalized, opting to take on this monumental task without the assistance of an attorney will require a lot of research on your part. Submitting the proper paperwork at the right time and in the right place is not always intuitive to individuals who do not specialize in practicing family law.

If your divorce ends up heading toward trial, you can continue to opt for a pro se divorce, so you will represent yourself during the hearing. By being a pro se litigant in the proceedings, you can speak for your own best interests without paying an attorney to do it for you. Bear in mind that you have the option to find and enlist the assistance of a divorce lawyer at any point during the process. Seeking representation can be necessary if you become overwhelmed by the research required, or if you uncover more assets or custody issues than originally anticipated.

How Much Does a Divorce Cost without a Lawyer?

An uncontested pro se divorce is clearly one of the least expensive methods of finalizing this process. Other methods may cost thousands of dollars and include litigation and even mediation, but a pro se divorce can often be completed for just a few hundred dollars. When money is one of the primary factors that leaves you feeling trapped in an unhappy marriage, the low cost of a pro se divorce can give you a way to gain your freedom.

Couples need to keep in mind that making a mistake while filing the paperwork for a pro se divorce could be extremely costly. When you find yourself uncertain that you can adequately research the requirements for filing for divorce without an attorney, you may want to reconsider whether this method is for you. Making large mistakes during the filing process can certainly take away from any expected savings you may be hoping for.

Pro Se Divorces Are Perfect in the Right Circumstances

Many couples can greatly benefit from the anticipated savings associated with filing for divorce without an attorney. Pro se divorces lend more financial freedom to married couples, who find themselves in the ideal circumstances to pursue this option. To ensure that you can quickly bring your divorce to completion, there must be time to complete extensive studying on the requirements for your individual state and county.

Spouses who are able to maintain excellent communication skills and have a desire to resolve their marital conflicts quickly tend to be more successful with pro se divorces. They also may want to consider this option when there are no children or extensive financial assets to consider. If you feel like you and your spouse match that description, it may be time to consider the how much money you could save by pursuing a pro se divorce, rather than hiring an attorney.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is the host of the “Divorce and Your Money Show” and Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, with offices in Dallas, New York and Hanover, New Hampshire.

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Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA

Dallas, Texas

Shawn C. H. Leamon is Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, a firm that helps successful families manage large financial transitions like divorce, inheritance and selling a business.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College, double majoring in Economics and Philosophy, and his Masters in Business Administration at Spain’s IE Business School.

Before founding LaGrande Global, Shawn helped manage $1.1 billion in client assets at Bernstein Global Wealth Management. He also worked as a credit research analyst at J.P. Morgan. He is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and he has been an advisor to numerous high-stakes divorce cases.

Shawn is the author of two well-received finance books: Managing Private Wealth: Principles, and Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide, both published in 2016.

In his spare time, Shawn is an ultra-endurance athlete and has competed in events as long as 24 hours. He is an Eagle Scout and a member of the Alumni Board of Greenhill School.