3 risks of self-representation during a Georgia divorce

People who get divorced without an attorney may be at greater risk for making damaging mistakes, causing legal delays and experiencing greater stress.

It's not uncommon for people who are getting divorced in Lawrenceville to consider representing themselves during this process. Many people in this position have concerns about the cost of divorce or the increased living expenses that will follow, which can make self-representation seem appealing. However, spouses should not underestimate the complexity of the divorce process in Georgia. People who navigate this process alone may be risk for all of the following unnecessary outcomes.

1. Oversights or mistakes

Divorce can be highly emotional and stressful, so it's not surprising that spouses who lack legal counsel often make mistakes. The Huffington Post cites the following missteps as examples of errors that spouses might make when representing themselves:

  • Filling out paperwork incorrectly. Family law judges make many decisions regarding marital property division, spousal support and child custody based off of the documentation that spouses submit. Mistakes in this paperwork may make a person appear dishonest, lax or aggressive toward the other spouse.
  • Acting based on emotions. People who are getting divorced may make illogical or otherwise harmful decisions that are emotionally driven. They also may hurt their case by acting inappropriately toward the other spouse or other involved parties based on their emotions.
  • Making shortsighted decisions. It also can be easy for divorcing spouses to get caught up in certain aspects of the divorce case instead of looking at the big picture. As a result, these spouses may "win" on a few points, but end up with an unfavorable overall settlement.

An attorney may be able to prevent a spouse from making these mistakes by providing objective advice and directly handling legal paperwork. Additionally, as another Huffington Post article notes, an attorney can help a spouse make requests that are reasonable and unambiguous, which might improve the likelihood of an advantageous settlement.

2. Legal delays

Many people, particularly those with children, would prefer to avoid the ongoing upheaval and stress of a prolonged divorce. Unfortunately, people who represent themselves are at greater risk of making errors when completing paperwork or handling other aspects of the divorce process. Such errors can result in substantial delays. Materials from the State of Georgia website specifically recommend that spouses consider working with an attorney to identify potential snags and complete the divorce process more efficiently.

3. Unnecessary stress

Self-representation, which can be time-consuming and confusing, may add to the stress that divorcing spouses already feel. The Huffington Post notes that an attorney can reduce the amount of time that a spouse spends preparing for and handling the divorce proceedings, which may reduce stress. Although there are no guarantees in a divorce, an attorney can advise a spouse on whether an outcome is reasonably likely or unrealistic. This can help remove some of the uncertainty from the stressful aspects of the divorce case, such as the determination of child custody and visitation.

Seeking legal guidance

Given the potential downsides of self-representation, most divorcing spouses can benefit from at least meeting with an attorney for a second opinion. An attorney may be able to help a spouse identify issues that may come up during the divorce, based on Georgia's laws and the spouse's own situation. An attorney also might be able to help a spouse assess whether the risks of self-representation make this approach inadvisable.