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When you're going through a divorce, you usually have an attorney, right? Well, not always.

The last two times I went to court over a divorce issue, I went "pro se," meaning I fired my attorney and represented myself. I had to follow the same procedures as a lawyer, which involved completing the paperwork and then filing it. Representing myself worked well for me and could also work for you.I'm not suggesting you throw caution to the wind and jump feet first into the process of representing yourself. If you can find an attorney who's right for you, one who you trust, the divorce process will be less stressful.

But if not, going pro se is a viable option - though it involves a lot of work on your part. Representing yourself means researching and learning your state's divorce laws, your state's rules of civil procedure, family court codes, and the rules that are followed in the county will be divorced in. Your best resource for such information is a local law library and your local court clerk's Office. A court clerk can't give legal advice, but can provide information regarding which forms need to be filled out and filed for specific issues.

If you're considering representing yourself, you'll need the following information:

  • How and where to file an original petition for divorce.
  • Whether you can plead grounds for divorce in your petition. Here, knowing your state's divorce laws comes in handy.
  • What steps you have to take to notify your spouse once you have filed your petition for divorce.
  • What is expected of you after your spouse has been notified.
  • When or if you should file a notice of hearing to obtain temporary orders. If you have marital assets, children, a mortgage to pay and other financial needs you will likely want temporary orders to be sure you have enough money to live on until the divorce is final.
  • When or if you need to file a notice to set a date for the final divorce hearing.

The rules concerning discovery, which is the process used to gather information about your spouse that you might need in court. During discovery you can request documents. like pertinent bank records and credit card statements You will also be able to send a list of questions called interrogatories to the opposing counsel during the discovery phase. Your court clerk will be able to tell you if there are certain forms that have to be used during discovery. You can also research online for sample discovery forms and sample interrogatory questions or actual court documents that relate to the discovery process.

  • Whether or not mediation is an option. Most states now require mediation and you will need to know the dates, how much the cost will be to you and what, if any rules your local court has regarding mediation.
  • The local procedures you need to follow should mediation fail.

Cathy heads up's Divorce Support channel. Go to's Divorce Channel to hear more from her.


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1 comment

  • Comment Link Rachel G. Wednesday, 17 March 2010 11:53 posted by Rachel G.

    Cathy, thanks for the: Cathy, thanks for the insightful and educational article. I always enjoy reading your column as you make the most difficult situations seem easier to navigate. I look forward to your next installment.