Yes, Although Attorneys Can Provide Benefits to a Divorce
Video Transcribed: Can a divorce be done without a lawyer? I’m Tulsa divorce attorney James Wirth. And that’s the question that we have today, is can a divorce be done without a lawyer? And the answer is, yes, you’re not required to have an attorney represent you to do a divorce proceeding in Oklahoma. However, it can be very difficult to do on your own if you don’t know-how. For instance, there are no form pleadings for divorces that are available at the courthouse.
So if you go down to the courthouse, there are no forms where you can checkboxes and fill out blanks to file your paperwork. Some states have systems like that like California does. Oklahoma does not. So if you’re representing yourself, you’re responsible for your own paperwork and drafting.
And the law says you will be held to the same standard as an attorney. So it can be difficult if you don’t know how to do the drafting and you don’t know how to do the procedures to get a court date and how to present things in court, rules of evidence, all of those types of things.
So, practically speaking it can be very difficult to do, represent yourself in a divorce, if you’re not a lawyer, unless maybe it’s a simple divorce, or it’s an agreed divorce, which case it’s more common for people to do without an attorney. So, if you do not have an attorney, how do you draft your paperwork?
Well, there are a couple of ways, one, if you’ve got experience doing that, then you can just draft it yourself. Two, you could hire a drafting service, either that with a lawyer, or with a non-lawyer drafting service, or you could do it on your own.
A lot of times I get questions, people call me, how do I draft this paperwork? How should I do this? And the best advice I have for them is if they want to do it themselves, even though that’s not my recommendation, but if you do want to do it yourself, try to save money that way and take the risks along with that, look at what other people have filed. These court records are, for the most part, they’re public records.
So you can look at prior divorce cases in that county before that judge and find out what other people have drafted and how well that’s worked for them and then take a bunch of those, review them, see the differences and take and pick what you want, that seems to be working and use that to compile it together into your own pleading. So, for a layman that wants to do their own, that’s my best recommendation, is to look at what other people have done that have been successful and put that together.
However, my professional recommendation is always going to be, get an attorney, even in simple cases, what you don’t know can sometimes be the biggest problem. The most iconic example of that, that I see is the child tax credit.
That’s one where there’s a default, default’s going to be IRS rules. So, if you’ve got a custody case and you don’t put anything related to who gets to claim the child for tax purposes, it’s going to go by the default, which is the IRS rule, which means whoever the child is residing with for six months or more out of the year.
So, as a non-custodial parent that’s entering an agreed divorce, the fact that there’s no paragraph in there at all addressing that, means you don’t know that you’re missing out on that. And that’s frequently the case, you don’t know what you don’t know.
And that’s why it’s always a good idea to have an attorney, but are you required to have an attorney? Absolutely not, you’ve got the right to represent yourself in court. Just note that you’re going to be held to the standard of an attorney and it can be complicated to go through those processes. If you have any questions about that or do want a consultation privately with a divorce attorney in Tulsa, you can get that scheduled by going to makelaweasy.com.