My spouse is represented. Do I need a lawyer too? (not necessarily)
After the idea of divorce is introduced, you and your spouse may go from being an aligned couple to have competing interests. As such, one or both of you may decide to hire a divorce attorney. If your ex has counsel and you don’t, you may be thinking: My spouse is represented. Do I need a lawyer too? (Not necessarily).
Wisconsin Divorce Requirements
Neither party has to be represented to file for or participate in a Wisconsin divorce case. When a party represents themselves, they are referred to as a "pro se" litigant. Pro se parties may file for divorce jointly or separately. As any party to a divorce, pro se litigants will be required to follow the court's processes and procedures and provide certain documents and information during the case.
Sometimes couples will divorce when one party is represented. This type of arrangement usually occurs when there are no contested issues in the divorce. When parties agree on all their divorce terms, one may hire an attorney to prepare the divorce documents. The divorce documents will be provided to the unrepresented party for review and signature. The unrepresented party will have the option of signing them as presented or making proposed changes. This practice usually works best when there is little to no conflict between the parties.
Parties can be unrepresented in contested divorce cases as well. However, when you and your ex disagree over significant issues, choosing to represent yourself can be risky or at least overwhelming, especially if your ex has a lawyer. Like any area of the law, divorce can be complicated. Additionally, these cases have specific procedural requirements. If you don’t understand the law or processes, it may be difficult to defend your case and represent yourself under these circumstances.
Pro Se Divorce Litigant Expectations
As a pro se divorce litigant, you will be expected to know the process and conduct yourself appropriately and professionally during the case. Although the court will recognize that you are not a lawyer, you will be held to the same standards. This means that you will need to file appropriate pleadings and documents and be prepared for and attend all scheduled hearings and case-related events in a timely fashion.
Self-Representation May Not be in Your Best Interest
Representing yourself when your ex has an attorney is possible, but it may not always be advisable. Depending on your situation, it may be better for you to have a divorce attorney rather than to try and navigate the legal complexities of your Wisconsin divorce case.
Additionally, divorce is personal to those involved, and maintaining objectivity during your case can be challenging. When you have a divorce attorney, they can help you take a comprehensive look at the issues and understand your options.
A Wisconsin divorce attorney will also know how to protect you throughout the case. Divorce matters can change directions quickly, and being prepared is essential. Your ex’s lawyer may send you time-sensitive documents or schedule hearings that you will be required to attend. Not knowing how to respond or prepare could be detrimental to your case. When you have a divorce attorney, someone will be there to look out for your best interest, help you understand your options, and advocate on your behalf.
Looking Out for Your Best Interest and Being Prepared
The decision of whether or not to hire a divorce attorney depends on the parties and their particular circumstances. If you believe your ex is upfront and will engage fairly with you regarding the divorce terms, you may decide it's not necessary to have your own divorce attorney. But you can change your mind at any time during the process if you feel unprotected or overwhelmed.
Additionally, sometimes a divorce that begins as relatively amicable can become more contentious as the case develops. If you and your ex disagree down the road, you may need to reconsider representing yourself and get the help you need.
Contact an Experienced Divorce Law Attorney
Wisconsin Attorney and Mediator Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law is an attorney and Mediator with the experience you need to help you with your Wisconsin divorce case. If you live in Metro Milwaukee, Waukesha, or Brookfield and have questions about representing yourself when your ex has an attorney, please contact us today and let us take a “first look” at your situation.