Do I have to have a lawyer represent me in my divorce?

The “short answer” is no; but there are many risks involved in “self-representation.”

Everyone has a right to represent himself or herself in court; however, it is rarely a “good idea.” A proverb says that, “He who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.”

Despite what many people – including many lawyers – think, family law is complex. Even situations that seem “simple,” are frequently much more complicated than they appear on the surface. The last twenty years has brought an explosion in complexity to family law. Divorce involves not just “getting ‘un-married,’” but frequently involves a staggering array of interlocking federal and state legal provisions and requirements. It is rarely a good idea to not seek the advice of a lawyer who has experience in family law issues.

It is of critical importance that after receiving divorce papers, those papers not be “ignored.” They will not “go away.” Things will not “get better.” By not responding properly to divorce papers, many people have given up valuable rights, or entered into agreements that they could have easily avoided by proper action.

If nothing else is done, after receiving divorce papers, at least an “answer” or “response” should be filed in the court identified on the papers within the time stated.

Although the best way to have any family law matter handled is to hire an attorney for full representation, as of July 1, 2009, the Kansas courts have set up “pilot projects” in a limited number of counties in which lawyers can provide “limited-scope representation” in which a lawyer is allowed to ethically provide advice, guidance, and drafting help on specific matters within a family law action, without filing an “entry of appearance,” which would obligate the lawyer to attend every hearing and require any other attorney to contact only that lawyer.