I recently read a study that tracked divorce cases in the United States and found that when both parties had attorneys, the case was more likely to settle out of court.
This makes sense to me. As an attorney, I’d much rather work on a case where the other side also has an attorney (as opposed to a party that has elected to be unrepresented).
In general, unrepresented people lack experience and understanding of the intricacies of the legal system and the divorce process, which can draw everything out as they attempt to navigate a field in which they are unfamiliar. Furthermore, a pro se party is more likely to allow his/her emotions to enter into negotiations.
Encourage Your Spouse to Hire an Attorney
The difficulty in settling a divorce case where one party is unrepresented essentially boils down to this: the person doesn’t know what’s reasonable and what’s unreasonable, and therefore we spend more time haggling over things that an attorney would sort out quickly. Additionally, the parties allow emotions to factor into the case. A husband, upon finding out that his wife cheated on him, may insist that she relinquish her married name. The law does not allow him to accomplish this. In the end, this costs everyone more time and money, not to mention the emotional fallout.
Let’s look at an example. I heard about a case where a divorcing couple had three children in grade school. The children had grown up in Longmont, but now that the parents were divorcing, the mother wanted to move to Colorado Springs to be closer to her family. She argued that the kids should go to school down there, while the father argued that they should continue to go to school in Longmont.
In this case, the father was represented by an attorney, but the mother chose to represent herself.
Since there were children involved and this case was dealing heavily with custody arrangements, there were a number of professional experts involved. Therapists, child custody evaluators, parenting coaches and a PC/DM (which is basically a mediator/arbitrator) were involved — now that’s a lot of people.
However, even though virtually all the professionals recommended that the children should stay in Longmont and continue to go to school in Longmont, the mother (who was unrepresented) couldn’t get it out of her head that the children should move to Colorado Springs. She continued to ignore the recommendations and push for the move. This was unfortunate, because it meant that the case couldn’t be settled out of Court. In the end, the case was forced to go to Court, and she didn’t get what she wanted, anyway.
Now, if she had been represented by an attorney, that person would have sat her down and said something like, “Look. If we go to Court, the Judge is very likely to follow these professional recommendations. You will not get what you want, it will take longer, and it will cost more. Let’s figure out how we can compromise.”
This example really illustrates why people shouldn’t represent themselves, and are less likely to settle if they do.
Divorce: It’s Harder to Settle If You Don’t Have an Attorney
Of course, there are always exceptions to this (and every case is different), but in general, it’s harder to settle a divorce case if only one side has an attorney. Why? Because the unrepresented person is too close to the issue, it’s too personal.
There are three ways to settle a case:
- The two parties can talk. This is my least favorite way because it’s the least effective: the two most emotional people involved, who are also the two least educated people involved, are going to sit down and negotiate their divorce? It rarely works out.
- The two lawyers can talk.
- All four people talk (lawyers and couple) in a combined meeting.
#2 and #3 are the most effective. If you want to move quickly through your divorce process, choose one of these options. Obviously, if a person is unrepresented, these options are limited.
The bottom line is this: hire an attorney. You’ll get someone who knows how the divorce process works and can accurately predict what a judge is going to do. Not only that, you’ll have a person in your corner who can look at the situation objectively, which is really important. Frequently, people are concerned that an attorney will complicate the case. With some attorneys, that may happen. However, most attorneys are more interested in resolving the case in an equitable fashion.
If your spouse is planning to go through the divorce process without hiring an attorney, encourage him/her to hire one. It may seem like you have an advantage if they are unrepresented, but the truth is, unrepresented people create more difficulty for everyone.
If you’re preparing for a divorce, call our office today at 303-449-1873 for a complimentary consultation and we’ll discuss how the process will work for you.