Many if not most people going through a divorce aren’t thrilled by the idea of having to hire a lawyer. After all, lawyers are expensive and there is a common perception that lawyers unnecessarily complicate matters and make everything difficult for no good reason.
Do you need a lawyer to get divorce? It depends on how you define “need”.
In the strictest sense: no – you do not need an attorney to get divorced. All people need access to judicial process and the courts regardless of whether they have the financial means to hire an attorney or not. Most courthouses in Colorado have a self-help desk were any person wishing to file a state court case can go to get general information and blank legal forms to fill out.
Under this scenario, the pro se (unrepresented) spouse is responsible for correctly pleading their case to the court, educating themselves about the law and being familiar with applicable case deadlines, gathering evidence and making proper arrangements for witness testimony, preparing legal arguments and the presentation of their case to the judge, and putting on evidence at testimony at the hearing.
Non-lawyers representing themselves are held to the same standard as an attorneys and expected to know the rules for admissibility of evidence at a hearing, including what the judge is not legally allowed to consider in making a decision (e.g. hearsay, etc.).
Generally judges cannot, and will not help unrepresented persons make their case, or “take it easy” on them because they don’t have a lawyer. This is because there are rules requiring that represented and unrepresented persons be held to the same standard in court.
Frequently unrepresented persons make mistakes that cannot be fixed later, and miss opportunities to resolve the matter in their favor. The reason why this happens is simple: they don’t know what they are doing and there is simply too much information to learn in a short period of time for them to effectively represent themselves.
What makes matters worse is when the other spouse does have an attorney who knows what they are doing. In this scenario, the outcome for the unrepresented person can often be quite grim.
So, yes – while you can get divorced without a lawyer, you cannot typically expect a very good outcome in your contested divorce without a lawyer. The money spent hiring an attorney to handle your divorce is almost always worth it.