The question as to whether or not an individual needs an attorney to divorce in Florida is simple if we review the question literally. You can get a divorce in Florida without an attorney. However, it may be unwise to attempt to be divorced without an attorney.
Why Should I Use an Attorney?
The author believes that an attorney is essential if you are attempting to obtain a divorce. This may sound like a self serving statement, but the author thinks there are numerous reasons that one should use an attorney to guide them through the process. The author feels that having an attorney keeps otherwise Pro Se (self represented) clients forging ahead and not getting side tracked by discovery issues and other procedural problems regularly encountered and routinely dealt with by attorneys.
Does the Court System Provide Help for Self Represented Litigants?
Yes, most courts have a self help desk at the clerk’s office. The author believes that Pro Se litigants too frequently rely on their advice. The information that is provided by the self help desk is sometimes inaccurate as applied to a particular situation. For instance, according to one client, the self help desk advised an individual to complete a form that allowed the court to obtain jurisdiction over a client that resulted in a very negative outcome for that individual. The clerk’s office gave the individual a blank form labeled “Answer”. The filing of an Answer negates the need in many cases to serve someone with legal papers in a civil lawsuit. The individual was unaware of the ramifications of filing an Answer in the case. The case involved the custody of a child, so negative results had very serious consequences. Another repeated theme that the author hears about using a self help desk is that it takes a very long time to schedule hearings and move the case forward. It is the author’s understanding that a case must be reviewed by someone in the clerk’s office before any hearings can be scheduled when a Pro Se litigant is involved. There are other disadvantages to not having professional help. If you think about it in terms of using a professional versus the use of someone that is not licensed as an attorney. Many of us have changed our own oil, but we might be walking if we attempted to rebuild our own engines. Suffice it to say that an attorney can carefully draft a final order that covers your interests, understands the rules that must be complied both in court and at mediation. It is far better to be in court with someone who is a fiduciary and is legally bound to look out for your best interests compared with being a self represented individual who is in the dark about the law and the procedures or is getting advice from a clerk who is immune from giving out negligent advice otherwise framed as helping someone fill out paperwork.
Get a Free Consultation Today.
If you are impacted by any issue involving divorce or separation in Florida, you should seek an attorney that is experienced in divorce matters. The attorneys at the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC are experienced in divorce and family law matters and they can help you decide the best way to proceed. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced attorney, Call (904) 685-1200 today. Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC, 4115 Hendricks Ave., Jacksonville, Florida 32207. Telephone (904) 685-1200.
About the author
Neil Weinreb is a licensed Florida attorney who has been practicing law for over 17 years in North Florida. Mr. Weinreb received the highest possible rating from Martindale Hubbell, AV Pre-eminent. Mr. Weinreb works for the Law Office of David M. Goldman in Jacksonville, Florida and regularly handles divorce issues. Mr. Weinreb has worked as an adjunct professor teaching law to paralegal students at Jones College in Jacksonville, Florida. You can contact Mr. Weinreb at the Law Office of David M. Goldman for a free initial consultation. An important case that Mr. Weinreb successfully appealed in 2017 was, Sencoa Crawford v. State of Florida in which Florida’s First District Court of Appeals found that hearing officers did not have the authority to order arrests of Obligors. Crawford v. Department of Revenue, 219 So. 3d 224 (1st DCA 2017).
What Other Advantages Does a Party Have that is Professionally Represented?
A party that is represented by an attorney frequently may not be required to appear in court when the attorney appears for that party. A party that is represented by a competent attorney should be able to get all questions answered by their attorney. Self represented litigants frequently get their advice from other non professionals and that advice may or may not be applicable. There are nuances in the law that sometimes have to be researched based on a particular situation or event. A competent attorney will know how to get these questions answered for you. When an order has to be drafted, judges regularly ask the attorney in the case to draft the agreement. Your attorney will almost always get a copy of any proposed order even if it comes from the opposing counsel and if it is not accurate. In a case where a retirement account must be divided, a party may require a specific order called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order to accomplish this. Attorneys will know how to draft such an order or he or she may have another attorney that they regularly use to draft a QDRO. Most Pro Se litigants would not even attempt to draft such an order. Only someone that is trained to be understand the rules of evidence can instinctively raise a timely objection in court, which may mean that harmful evidence or statements to you r case can be excluded. An attorney should understand the standard of review that a court is bound to decide a case upon, which means that he or she can file an appeal should the court make a decision that does not conform with Florida Law.
 Non lawyers are prohibited from giving legal advice. It appears that the court system refers to the work at the self help desk as essentially helping litigants complete forms and informing them about procedural deficiencies to move their case forward.