You Are Allowed to Represent Yourself
Video Transcribed: When you don’t need a lawyer for an Oklahoma divorce case. I’m Tulsa divorce attorney James Wirth, and we’re talking about when you don’t need a lawyer. First off, you’re not required to have a lawyer. If you’re going to get divorced, you are required to go to court to go through the process. It does have to be signed off by a judge, filed with the court clerk. So you do have to go through that court process, but you are not required to have an attorney.
You are allowed to represent yourself. However, you should be aware that if you are representing yourself, the law does provide that you’re to be held to the same standard as an attorney who is representing a client.
So it can be difficult to do, and under most circumstances, you probably don’t want to do it. But there are limited circumstances where it may be okay for you to represent yourself and go through the process if you don’t have an attorney. And that’s what we’re talking about today.
So let me talk about some of the ways you would want …. Or reasons why you would want an attorney. Okay. So if your case is going to be contested at all, it can be difficult to do it on your own if you don’t have the legal experience, knowledge, know-how to draft, get it set for court, go through those processes, put on a hearing.
Putting on an evidentiary hearing can be very difficult if you’re not trained to do so, particularly if you’re going up against somebody who has representation on the other side. Handling objections, getting evidence entered in, knowing how to properly authenticate documents, getting them into the record, knowing proper objections and how to overcome those, knowing when you are allowed to enter evidence when you’re allowed to call witnesses when you’re allowed to make legal arguments.
The difference between making legal arguments and the time for that versus entering evidence and getting witness testimony and the proper time to do that can be tough if you do not have the training and experience to do that.
A lot of times I hear from people who represent themselves may be on a protective order docket or a small claims docket, where it’s more common, and they frequently have the opinion after the fact, when they’re calling an attorney for an appeal, that the judge just shut them down and wouldn’t let him speak. And sometimes maybe that’s the case, but more often than not it’s that they didn’t know when to speak about the right things.
You have to know the right time to speak about the right things. So if you are given an opportunity to speak, but it’s time to give an argument and you’re trying to testify, that’s not going to be proper, and it’s going to cause problems.
So if your matter is contested at all, and you’re having to go through those processes and procedures, you’re going to need to have representation. You’re going to want to do so. You are perfectly allowed to represent yourself, but you probably don’t want to.
So when you do have an opportunity where you should represent yourself, it’s always going to be agreed cases. And if it’s an agreed divorce or it’s agreed with a custody matter, then you may be able to represent yourself on that.
And if it’s agreed, that means you have a full agreement regarding all of the terms. So if it’s a divorce, that means you’ve got an agreement regarding custody, visitation, child support, asset division, debt division, alimony, attorney’s fees if applicable. All of those things.
If you have a complete agreement on everything, then you may not be a lawyer, or may not need a lawyer. And you may be able to represent yourself in getting that entered because there are drafting services that can help you draft agreed with documents. When it’s not agreed, it’s a lot more difficult to do the drafting because things may need to be changed depending on how the proceedings go.
However, if you are doing an agreed divorce, do you have a retirement plan that is being divided? If so, then you’re going to need a QDRO, a qualified domestic relations order. Those can be very complicated to draft and get properly entered and approved by the planned administrator. So my recommendation is, if you are dividing a retirement account, you probably do want to have a lawyer involved.
Okay. So that leaves us with a situation where you may not need an attorney. It’s where you know exactly what you have, exactly what you want, and you have a complete agreement on it. And you do not have a retirement account that needs to be divided.
Under those circumstances, you may be able to do it on your own, with the drafting service without the need of an attorney. However, if you ever in doubt regarding any of those things, do consult an Oklahoma divorce attorney. If you want to speak with somebody at my office about that, we can help you. For that, go to makelaweasy.com.