When the Spouses Agree, an “Easy” Road Out

If you and your spouse can come to a meeting of the minds about the terms and conditions of your divorce, you may want to consider a pro se divorce. Pro se means “for yourself.” In a pro se divorce, each of you represents himself or herself in court, and sometimes, depending upon the jurisdiction, it is not even necessary for both of you to even appear.

When you can make it work, pro se divorce cuts the cost of a divorce because it eliminates, or at least dramatically reduces, the involvement of lawyers, who are a considerable cost in adversarial legal actions.

All states permit pro se filing. Some states have websites offering all the forms needed for a simple or simplified divorce action where one or both parties does the filing normally done by a lawyer. Many states now permit summary divorce actions, where both you and your spouse file as copetitioners, or a default divorce, where one of you files and the other spouse does not respond. When both of you are in agreement about everything, you file for an uncontested divorce, and rest of the action moves administratively through the court system.

Pro se lawyering particularly appeals to young couples ending a short-term marriage with no children, both spouses working, and easily distributed assets and debts.

A few caveats are in order. Pro se filing does not work in divorces where one of you wants to punish the other for the failure of the marriage. Pro se lawyering should not even be considered if one of you has retained a lawyer, or the divorce is contested, or the two of you cannot even sit down at the same table to talk about ending the marriage. Pro se filing does not work if one of you wants to use litigation as a way of punishing the other. But it can work very well in cases where both of you agree that neither of you is at fault, that neither of you will contest the action, and that revenge and selfishness benefit neither of you.

Because it costs less, both of you end of with more money, which you will need when you start anew as single people. Pro se divorce can work for you if you and your spouse can unmake your marriage and each go your own way, if not as friends, then at least not as enemies.

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