Divorced dads who opt for the pro se divorce route don’t always choose the Do-It-Yourself option simply because it’s cheaper.
Even with the state of the job market, families with secure employment still go the DIY way to funnel their funds toward their families.
“I thought it would make the process easier on my sons, and save our family money that could go toward our children’s educational and other needs,” said writer and editor Richard Krawiec of Durham, N.C.
Krawiec took a few days to learn his state’s divorce laws and started to move forward with a DIY divorce. He and his ex-spouse had very few issues to resolve and he thought it would be a good fit for them.
But then his ex-wife had a change of heart and hired an attorney. The process then took more than three years.
Krawiec said at that point he “had no choice but to hire an attorney and spend money that should have gone to my children.”
Their final agreement turned out to be nearly identical to what their initial plan was, except they both had years of lawyers’ fees on top of it.
The pro se route isn’t just for divorcing fathers; there are unmarried single fathers who expend just as much and sometimes more on attorney fees concerning custodial rights and child custody agreements.
Willy Rockton*, a graphic designer in Carrboro, N.C., decided to go pro se after a pricy and lengthy negotiation process with his child’s mother. It took several years for Rockton’s custody arrangement to be finalized.
Although they never made it into court, over the course of that time he and his son’s mother spent six figures on litigation. During the past 12 years, Rockton has represented himself twice. His saving grace was his county’s Dispute Settlement Center.
The Dispute Settlement Center is a non-profit organization based in Carrboro that helps to resolve and prevent conflict through mediation and training. Both times Rockton used the center he was able to settle issues in only two or three meetings. Plus, the organization’s sliding scale was an easier bill to pay.
Also, the Tennessee Supreme Court recently approved “do-it-yourself” plain-language forms for uncontested divorces without significant legal issues, known as “agreed” divorces in the new documents. The documents even come with divorce tips, such as what to wear in court.
Has anyone been successful with a DIY divorce? Yes, if they’re willing to invest the time to educate themselves on the law.
It took physical therapist Chris Slydel weeks. Slydel, originally from the UK, needed to learn the ins and outs of his state’s divorce law in the U.S. His decision to go pro se was based on the fear that his separation would turn into a financial battle. Without hiring an attorney, Slydel agreed to do everything.
Most counties supply DIY divorce kits, but Slydel didn’t find them very helpful. Instead, he visited attorneys’ websites and created his own final settlement agreement using templates supplied by a lawyer’s office. Just to protect himself he had the papers legally reviewed before they were executed and filed.
The process was emotionally wrenching and he says if he’s ever in the same situation again he would never represent himself.
With respect to the emotional cost, he says, “Next time I’d cough up the money and think of it as cheap.”
The mistakes made during a pro se process end up costing families more, financially and emotionally. Invest in an attorney to protect fathers rights and the rights of your children. At the very least, have a qualified domestic litigation attorney review any proposed settlement agreement.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of those who requested it.
Read related article: “The Cost Of A Do-It-Yourself Divorce“
Tara Lynne Groth is a full-time freelance writer residing in Cary, North Carolina. Her work has appeared in places such as GO (AirTran Airways’ in-flight magazine), the Providence Journal and Chesapeake Family. Learn more about Tara by visiting her website www.taralynnegroth.com.