Statistics, as well as casual observation, readily show that people are representing themselves in divorce, and other legal matters, on a more frequent and regular basis. The purpose of this site is to help you through the divorce process if you choose to represent yourself. Self-representation is not advised by this site. Very often the results of the divorce process will dictate what happens to your access to your children, your wealth, and your continuing obligations to your spouse. It is a personal choice to proceed through your divorce without representation. The risks and benefits should be carefully weighed. A consultation with an attorney before you proceed with your divorce may very well save you from mistakes and pitfalls that have irreversible consequences.
STEP ONE – GET INFORMED
If you are going to proceed with your divorce without representation the most important thing you can do for yourself is GET INFORMED. You can refer to the “RESOURCE” tab on the homepage of this Website for information about divorce laws and related resources. There are sufficient links provided that will enable you to learn what you should know about divorce before proceeding. Take the time, invest the effort, get informed.
Don’t shoot from the hip. Identify the issues that you must resolve to move forward with your divorce. These issues usually include, but are certainly not limited to:
- Child Custody
- Legal Custody
- Residential Custody
- Access Schedule
- Support Issues (Child Support, Family Maintenance, Alimony)
- Property Division
- Pension and Retirement Division
- Grounds for Divorce
- Jurisdiction (authority) of The Court
Work through these issues – establish your goals and objectives for each issue relevant to your divorce. If you and your spouse are on good terms, involve your spouse. In dealing with property and pension issues, extra care is needed to make certain you are aware of the tax issues. You want to avoid making mistakes in the division of these assets because mistakes can be costly and irreversible. The information to help you avoid these mistakes is readily available on the web.
Issues involving custody and visitation of your children can be the most difficult to resolve. Custody issues are emotionally charged. Your time with your children, and your rights to make decisions regarding your children, will be permanently altered as a result of the divorce process. It is a good idea to for you and the other parent to figure out what aspects of custody you agree on. For example, many people readily agree to joint legal custody – meaning both parents participate in making important decisions regarding their children’s health, education and religion. After the easy decisions are made, the more controversial custody and visitation issues should be identified and discussed. The controlling theme should always be what is in your children’s best interest. Argument should be avoided. If an agreement can not be reached, then mediation should be considered before resorting to custody litigation. Of all the areas of family law, custody litigation is perhaps the most costly and the most damaging.
If you are able to reach an agreement on these issues, you should reduce the terms of your agreement to writing in a “Separation and Property Settlement Agreement”. These agreements are usually prepared by an attorney for one of the parties, and reviewed by an attorney for the other party. There are some agreement available online, although no representation is made regarding the quality of the online agreements. It is a good idea that you have an agreement that resolves all issues, in writing, and signed by both parties
JURISDICTION AND GROUNDS
If you are planning to move forward with an uncontested divorce, the court must have jurisdiction. Maryland has jurisdiction if one of the parties has resided here for more than a year, or if the grounds for divorce occurred within the State. There are links available on this website that identify the laws governing jurisdiction in family law matters.
You must also have “grounds” for divorce. The most common ground for divorce is a one year mutual and voluntary separation, or a two year separation. Separation means complete and uninterrupted, and with the intention to end the marriage. “Mutual and voluntary” means both parties want to be separated, and are voluntarily separated. Adultery is grounds for divorce, but the evidence must be persuasive, showing propensity and opportunity, and requires testimony from a third party with firsthand knowledge. There are links available on this website that identify the laws governing grounds for in family law matters. The laws governing grounds for divorce are not complicated, but should be read and understood before proceeding with your uncontested divorce.
The “do it yourself” assistance provided through this site is only appropriate if you are going to proceed with an uncontested divorce. A contested divorce is one where the parties do not agree on to resolve some issues in the divorce process, like alimony, property division or child custody. In these cases each party must present their argument to the court – through the introduction of evidence pursuant to the rules of procedure. These considerations are simply well beyond the purpose and intention of this site. An uncontested divorce is complicated enough.
An uncontested divorce means that you and your spouse have reached an agreement on the issues arising from your marriage. If you are going to proceed with your divorce using the tools available through this website, you must first payment of $249 is required. Upon payment you will be brought into the secured section of this site and you will answer a series of questions. The questions will cause the generation of the pleadings (court documents) that are necessary for a divorce. The pleadings will be accompanied by procedural instructions to help you navigate through the court system in the jurisdiction where you will divorce.