The Drawbacks to Representing Yourself in a Divorce

The average cost of a divorce in Georgia is the 8th highest in the United States. Without children, a divorce will cost an estimated $13,500. If children are involved, a divorce in Georgia will average $22,000.

A large portion of the cost associated with a divorce can be attributed to attorney’s fees. To get around the cost, some people try to proceed “pro se” — they represent themselves. However, lawyers are required to have a four-year college degree and a three-year doctorate degree in jurisprudence. Lawyers also have to pass the bar exam and maintain a certain number of continuing education hours per year.

Proceeding pro se in a divorce is a risky strategy that can end up costing more money in the long run. Read on to discover some of the drawbacks to representing yourself in a divorce.

Inexperience With the Law

To the non-lawyer, a divorce can seem simple, especially when the parties agree on the outcome. However, even if the parties are in total agreement certain legal procedures have to be followed. Things like time limitations and discovery are but a few of the rigid procedures that govern divorce. Legal terms like dissolution, alimony and decree may be familiar to you, but they have special meaning to lawyers.

If the divorce is contested or children are involved, the process is even more complicated. For example, preparing for trial is difficult; even for a seasoned lawyer. A lawyer is trained in making determinations about how to cross-examine witnesses and whether experts are necessary. A lawyer knows how to get documents admitted into evidence and what to include in an opening or closing statement. Trial courts do not make special accommodations for pro se litigants. If you choose to represent yourself, you will be required to follow the same rules as a lawyer.

Efficiency Is Important

An experienced divorce lawyer has likely seen many different divorce scenarios. This experience will often give lawyers a creative edge and the ability to craft solutions to solve seemingly impossible issues promptly. Efficiency in the divorce process is important. The longer the divorce lingers, the longer you live in uncertainty and the more money you spend to get to the result.

Even if you think that all of your marital issues are worked out, there is a possibility that the divorce may not end amicably. Unforeseen issues can arise throughout the process, making it more difficult. It may be more expensive to bring in a lawyer mid-way through the process than hiring someone from the outset.

Divorce is considered to be the second most stressful experience that a person encounters during their lifetime. A divorce is stressful enough without the added responsibility of deciphering difficult laws. Hiring a lawyer, especially one with experience in family law, will take this burden out of your hands. You will consider this money well spent at the end of the process.

Inability to Avoid Emotions

Like it or not, you have a biased opinion of your case. It is difficult not to be emotionally invested. This is essentially your life on trial, and being too emotionally involved in a case can result in a loss of objectivity. Worse, your emotional investment could result in an unequal settlement. Additionally, the trial court will probably regard you as biased if you choose to represent yourself.

Hiring a lawyer means that you inject objectivity into the divorce. Yes, a lawyer represents your interests but can do so without emotion. A lawyer brings a fresh perspective to the case, identifying the important issues and guiding you gently away from others.

Dragging out the Process

Inexperience with the legal process involved with divorce and stress can prolong the divorce process for the pro se litigant. When you hire a lawyer, they are familiar with the process. Let their experience smoothly guide the process.

When documents are filed properly, the judicial system theoretically works as it is supposed to work. Hiring a lawyer nearly ensures that deadlines are met and documents are filed properly. Pro se litigants can’t rely on the trial court or the clerk to assist them in the process. Don’t risk missing out on deadlines or being forced to ask for a continuance if you don’t understand the process

Selling Yourself Short

Getting a divorce is not only an emotional process, it involves knowing what documents to file and how to file them. A divorce lawyer understands the legal system and recognizes what important issues are worth fighting for in a divorce settlement. If you represent yourself and your spouse retains counsel, you risk being at a serious disadvantage.

Would you perform surgery on yourself? Probably not. Do you know what you are entitled to under the law? Probably not. If this is the case, how can you be certain that you are getting the best result? Entering into a divorce settlement without consulting a lawyer can end up costing you time and money.

It is true that you technically do not need a lawyer to represent you during a divorce proceeding. However, the best way to make sure you get fair treatment by the court and an equitable settlement agreement is to hire a lawyer. A qualified lawyer knows the law and can help you get the best result possible.


At the Platt Family Law Firm, we understand how the divorce process works. It is our goal to help our clients navigate the divorce process efficiently and with compassion. Contact The Platt Family Law Firm at (404) 255-3434 to get more information on the legal services we provide.


The Impact of Divorce on Mental Health

Rachel Platt

Rachel Platt

Founding attorney, Rachel Platt, is a highly respected attorney among her peers and clients. Since 2014, Ms. Platt has been selected as a Georgia Super Lawyers in the field of family law. Additionally since 2018, Georgia Super Lawyers named her to the Top 100 Attorneys and to the Top 50 Women Attorneys for the State of Georgia. Previously, Ms. Platt was an honoree on the Georgia Rising Star list in the field of family law from 2010-2013, voted by her peers as one of the best young lawyers in the state. She has also been recognized as one of Georgia’s Legal Elite in 2009, 2012, 2016, 2018 and 2019 in the area of family law by Georgia Trend magazine. Ms. Platt also currently holds a “Superb” rating on Platt has been practicing law for the last 18 years and is currently concentrates her legal practice in the areas of family law and special education law, and as outlined below, she frequently lectures on both topics.

Leave a Comment