Whether you’re the one who filed or your spouse took the first steps toward dissolving your marriage, you might be a bit surprised to find out that your ex hasn’t hired a divorce lawyer. Maybe it’s because he or she can’t afford it; perhaps there are personal reasons. Either way, if your ex doesn’t have an attorney, how does it all work?
The Downside of Self-Representation During Divorce
While divorce seems like a straightforward process, that’s not always the case. In fact, there usually are back-and-forth documents that often need to be filed with the appropriate clerks within certain timeframes. Without an attorney to cover those bases, your ex runs the risk of missing deadlines, leaving out important documents or making other mistakes – and that can cause your divorce to take longer than it ordinarily would.
Your ex cannot talk to your attorney for advice. Your lawyer and your ex can pass on information to each other, because your ex has no one to speak on his or her behalf, but that’s the legal extent of their communication with each other. (Ordinarily, that type of communication would only happen between attorneys.)
There are many websites that provide general information about divorce, but they can’t replace the case-specific advice that only an attorney can give. Well-meaning friends and family might be able to provide personal anecdotes about their own child custody, property division and other divorce experiences, but every case has its own nuances; what works for one person won’t work for another, even if the situation is similar.
Going to Court when Your Ex Doesn’t Have an Attorney
When you go to court, your lawyer will generally do most of the talking on your behalf. Unless the judge asks you a direct question, you probably won’t say much at all. However, your ex will be expected to speak for him- or herself. Your attorney will tell you what to expect in court before you go, which you can pass on to your ex if you’re so inclined. However, you aren’t obligated to share any information.