Getting a divorce is very expensive, and people will often use creative methods to minimize how expensive it is. One of the first pieces of advice that random articles or co-workers made give you is to just file for divorce without a lawyer.
After all, attorneys will charge you hundreds of dollars an hour for their advice. Self-help books or well-meaning acquaintances might try to convince you that you could fill out any necessary paperwork yourself and handle the divorce pro se. What is the risk of this approach in a Pennsylvania divorce?
A layperson lacks professional knowledge of the law
When you don’t have someone there to explain the law to you, you might make major mistakes in how you handle the divorce.
For example, you might try to avoid disclosing assets that you think are separate property. An attorney would let you know that that is a mistake that could end up costing you, but someone without an understanding of how the courts handle financial matters and divorce might think it is a common-sense idea.
Although you can read articles about how equitable distribution works or how the courts determine the best interests of your children, it can be very hard to understand what those concepts mean in a practical sense for your divorce if you don’t have legal experience.
You could agree to terms that are completely disadvantageous
When there isn’t someone there to tell you about your rights under the law, you might agree to a settlement outside of court that benefits your spouse and diminishes your rights. You might not be able to tell if your spouse wants to take advantage of you or has violated their obligations to you in the settlement that they suggested if you don’t have someone to review it and compare it to a litigated divorce outcome in a similar situation.
There is no guarantee that your spouse won’t come to court with an attorney
One of the biggest risks of trying to handle a divorce without a lawyer is that your ex could hire their own attorney and use your lack of representation to their advantage. No matter how carefully you try to be when educating yourself about the divorce process, you can easily make a mistake that an attorney could capitalize on in court.
Retaining a lawyer is an important part of protecting your best interests when you decide to file for divorce in Pennsylvania.