Your marriage is over. That in itself is extremely stressful and confusing; figuring out what to do next is often overwhelming. Do you have to hire an attorney? Perhaps if the issues pertaining to your divorce are complex, it’s probably the better idea. Even if your issues are fairly simple, it would certainly be easier to hand the reins over to a professional. Of course, the downside is the cost; attorneys do not come cheap.
So, are there ways to do your own divorce in California? The short answer is yes. You are not required to have an attorney represent you in court. Assuming you know which forms you need, you can download them for free at www.courtinfo.ca.gov. However, there are often MANY forms required in a family law case, and even one minor error can stall the entire process. One alternative is to head to your county court’s Family Law Facilitator’s office. The staff there can provide you with the paperwork you need, as well as provide instructions on how to complete the forms properly. Their services are completely free of charge, and the staff is very helpful. But there is a downside to using the Family Law Facilitator. The lines are often very long, and you will need to bring your patience, as the odds are good that you’ll be there for a while. Also, the staff at the Facilitator’s office cannot give you any legal advice, which most people will need at some point during the proceedings.
There is, however, another option a hybrid between doing your own divorce and having the benefit of an attorney. That option is called Limited Scope Representation, or “unbundled” services. In this case, you have an attorney in the background, helping you with paperwork AND providing you with legal advice and suggestions on how to navigate through your divorce. In these situations, the attorney does not represent you in court and cannot negotiate settlement on your behalf, but you do get the advantage of having professional one-on-one assistance. Because Limited Scope services do not require the attorney to appear in court, the fees for their services are often substantially less. If the attorney requires a retainer, it is usually much less than it would be for regular representation. Also, you can choose to meet with that attorney just once, or several times throughout the proceedings, depending on your needs. Finally, you maybe able to “pull” the attorney into the case down the road if things get complicated, and that attorney will already be familiar with your situation. Please note, however, that unbundled services may not be available in all states, so if your case is outside of California, you will need to check the rules for your state.
Which option should you choose? Only you know the answer to that. But if and when you decide you need some help, we at Family Law Center are here to help you, whether it’s just for half an hour or over the course of several months. Give us a call you’ll be glad you did!