Representing yourself in any legal matter is not as easy as it sounds. A Divorce Lawyer is trained to understand substantive areas of the law and the procedural rules that must be followed when raising substantive issues such as “What documents must be filed with my divorce petition in order for it to be heard?” If you are getting divorced, you need to understand what the potential issues are under Florida Family Law including property and debt distribution, child support, alimony payments, child custody and visitation. You need to know how to research prior decisions that are relevant to issues in your case and must be followed by the Judge assigned to your matter. You need to understand and be able to apply the State and local procedural rules that are followed by the Family Division of court in a family law matter.
“Pro se” parties to an action are parties who represent themselves in a legal procedure without the aid of an attorney. You have the right to represent yourself in a court of law, however, many people do not understand that choosing to represent yourself means that the Court will expect you to follow the same rules and procedures that an attorney must follow. The Judge in your case may not do anything to give any appearance of being partial to either side and this includes giving legal advice and having contact with either party without the other being present. The court must treat a pro se party in the same manner as a party represented by an attorney.
Court staff cannot give legal advice. Even filling out forms is considered legal advice and you need to seek the assistance of a licensed attorney if you have any questions regarding “what to put in the blanks.”
Often the desire to put this difficult time behind you or save on legal fees can influence you to enter into an agreement that you do not fully understand or with which you are not comfortable. Unfortunately, it is very common to consult with an attorney after the divorce is finalized only to learn that you have given more than you should have or not received property, time with your children or alimony to which you would have been entitled. In the end, this could cost you more than just the legal fees if you had retained an attorney.
LaFrance Law is familiar with and experienced in the substantive and procedural rules that apply in the Family and Dependency courts in the Tampa Bay area. Shannon LaFrance understands that every family law matter is personal and unique and must be prepared for court from a position of strength to achieve the best possible resolution.
If you decide to appear pro se, please be prepared by reading everything you can find. If you determine you need the advice of an attorney please get this advice before you go to your hearing. For a free phone consultation please call Shannon LaFrance at (813) 930-5542 or contact us on the web today.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by LaFrance Law.