10 Best Tips When Representing Yourself During Divorce

One of the first things a person going through a divorce usually does is hire an attorney, but what happens if you would rather represent yourself? Maybe you want to save money. Maybe you’re just really knowledgeable about the divorce process and want to give it a go on your own. Whatever the reason, there are some important terms you should know before taking this path. Here are 10 best tips when representing yourself during divorce.

1. Pro Se

This is the Latin term for appearing on one’s behalf without an attorney present. The pronunciation is “Pro-Say” and you’ll probably hear it a lot during the divorce process.

2. Ex Parte Communications

Pronounced “ex-partay”, this is something you want to stay away from. It refers to any communication made to the court (more specifically, the judge or judge’s clerk) without copying the other party in the communication. Aside from some general scheduling issues, this type of communication is not allowed and is highly frowned upon.

3. Equitable Distribution

This refers to marital property distribution and equitable is may not result in a 50/50 split. There are several factors the court considers when determining equitable distribution. How much is each spouse’s earning capacity? What is their contribution to the marital property? What is the duration of the marriage?

4. Ancillary Relief

This is an application one files if a financial settlement is not reached outside of court. Ancillary relief can request things like child support and alimony. It’s important to note that this is separate from the divorce process itself, but it can run concurrently with it.

5. Guardian ad Litem

If your divorce case involves a custody dispute, the court may appoint a Guardian ad Litem to represent the best interest of your children. There are several things they can do, like filing motions and requesting relief from the court on behalf of the children. They essentially lead an investigation to determine what the best interests of the children are in regards to the custody dispute.

6. Summons with Notice

If you are the one initiating the divorce, this is the legal document that starts it all. It establishes you as the Plaintiff and your spouse as the Defendant. Once this document is on file with the County Clerk’s Office, it is served to the Defendant, who then has a specific period of time to respond.

7. Separation Agreement

This is a written agreement between you and your spouse relating to all issues of the divorce, including alimony, child support, distribution of marital property, and child custody, among others. If you are filing for an uncontested divorce, file the Separation Agreement with the County Clerk’s Office at the same time you file the Summons with Notice.

8. Uncontested Divorce

Speaking of an uncontested divorce, this occurs when there are no issues to resolve between you and your spouse (i.e. child custody, spousal support, division of marital property) and your spouse agrees to the divorce. An uncontested divorce can also be granted if your spouse fails to appear in the divorce action.

9. Judgment of Divorce

This is a document with a court signature granting the divorce.

10. Notice of Entry

After the Judgment of Divorce is issued, it’s filed with the County Clerk’s Office. A Notice of Entry is then given to both parties showing the date it was entered into the system.

These are just a few of the important terms you should know when representing yourself during a divorce. While it’s certainly not impossible to do by yourself, a divorce professional on your side can be beneficial in helping you navigate the process. If you prefer not to work with an attorney or a mediator, a divorce coach is an excellent alternative.

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Essential Resources

If you’re facing legal/custody battles, a mental health crisis, an urgent medical issue, serious emotional problems, including suicidal thoughts, please seek help from the appropriate professionals near you.

Suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
Crisis line: 1-800-356-5395
Crisis text line: Text “help” to 741741
The National Domestic Violence Hotline
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)

Split.fyi Resources
Split.fyi Marital Life Inventory
Divorce Lifecycle Document
Divorce Process Overview


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