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The legal term that refers to self-representation in court is known as representing yourself pro-se. Many people who have taken part in a “do it yourself divorce” might find this term ironic because there are often times more cons than pros to it. Some divorces are too complex for anyone other than an experienced attorney to handle, which is evident by some of the following commonly made mistakes by individuals choosing to represent themselves during a divorce.

Many individuals who choose to represent themselves develop a false sense of security. They often believe that all financial and asset division issues are correctly resolved because the court accepted their forms and has issued the divorce decree. However, this may or may not be the case. Some problems can remain undiscovered for years until, for example, one spouse decides to purchase a home only to discover a mountain of jointly held debt that was never accounted for. Sorting these matters out can take a large amount of time, with both parties suffering from credit issues in the process.

Another mistake commonly made involves child provisions. Because there are so many options and choices when it comes to child custody arrangements, couples that make agreements without legal guidance frequently make mistakes. It is important to note that the Texas Family Code does not use the term “custody” in describing a parent’s legal relationship with a child, but instead uses the term “conservatorship.” Legally, there is no such thing as full, joint, sole, or primary custody under Texas law, and it is important for people representing themselves to fully understand child/parenting laws.

Mistakes are often made in property division.  Often people do not understand Texas community property laws and in a pro se divorce may not be aware of rights to property which they have.  Unlike children’s provisions, which can be changed (although it may be costly and time-consuming), property divisions are set in stone unless some kind of very obvious fraud was involved.

Individuals are encouraged to become knowledgeable in family law. However, representing oneself pro-se can result in frustration, wasted time, feeling overwhelmed, and it can increase the chances that you will end up with a settlement that is not best for you. It is not uncommon for a pro se litigant to appear before the judge more than once, be curtly told by the judge that the decree does not meet the requirements of the law, and have the judge send the person away to try to figure out what went wrong.

If there is no children or any property, a pro se divorce is perfectly feasible. If there is either of those, it may be pound-wise and penny-foolish not to hire a lawyer.