Representing Yourself in Contested Divorce: A Handbook for Pro Per Litigants in California
This comprehensive, indispensable handbook will guide you through the contested divorce process, from first steps to special issues. As a special bonus, customized forms for California self-representation are included.
Written by Richard J. Tuckerman, this “bible” places thirty years of successful family-law practice in your hands, allowing you the financial freedom to pursue divorce with the reassurance that the best advice is just a page away.
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There are many people struggling through the contested divorce family-law process without the aid of an attorney. The most common scenario is the lack of funds available; sometimes only one side has an attorney, and in other instances neither party has legal representation. No matter the particular situation, the lack of an attorney present on either side can change the entire outcome of a case.
If you represent yourself in California contested divorce, you will receive little or no help from the court. Judges have little patience with pro per litigants who are not prepared for the court process. Judges have little patience with pro per litigants who cannot articulate their position to the court. Judges have little patience with pro per litigants who ask the judge for legal advice or direction.
The family-law process is complicated and beset with traps for the unwary. Therefore, pro per litigants must respond to the challenge by educating themselves not only on the process of appearing in court but also with applicable law. It is necessary for them to become involved in the process as if they were attorneys themselves. This unfortunate position usually means that the unrepresented individual needs assistance in navigating the contested family-law maze. The question then is: What can be done about it?
If you follow the subject matter set forth in this handbook (when applicable to your case), your direction will become clear. This handbook gives you the basic tools you will need for the issues that are generally raised in the judicial arena. These issues include custody; timeshare with children; property and debt allocation; separate property versus community property; child and spousal support; fiduciary responsibilities; and other aspects of family law.
You are strongly advised to keep this handbook with you, whether in court or during the preparation of your case for court. By doing so, you will be able to argue your position with knowledge of the facts of your case as well as the applicable law, thereby providing you with leverage and confidence as you go through the contested divorce process.
A Note Regarding Emotional Backlash
Before embarking on this journey, please evaluate your emotional state. A strong emotional reaction -- however understandable -- will impede your ability to deal rationally with the issues involved in your case. If you are confrontational, the other party will probably also become confrontational. Confrontation prolongs litigation and prevents recognizing the need to complete the case.
If at all possible, set aside the bitterness that may have developed between you and the other party. Consider compromising when an issue is contested. The judge will appreciate a shift in your attitude as well as your desire to compromise. Setting a conciliatory tone will go a long way towards the successful conclusion of your contested family law action.
Focusing on the issues can be difficult, if not impossible, when you are distraught. If you are experiencing an emotional meltdown or outright depression, care must be taken to assess your decision-making capabilities. Seek and follow the advice of a professional in the mental health field who is able to understand your family law issues in a rational and dispassionate way. Our experience in the divorce arena has provided us with insight that the emotional experience is temporary, and the end result for you will be a happy and more balanced future filled with exploration and an expansion of your universe. But do not try to “go it alone,” psychologically speaking, if you feel that you need help during this challenging process.
You must take into account that there are certain truths with regard to the law. Do not fight a futile legal battle. Instead, develop your approach so that you get what you wish for based on your facts within the law as it exists presently. This handbook will help guide you through the process and give you a voice, and you will become a better litigant by following its material.
Attorney representation is never required in a California dissolution action. However, bear in mind that using the information in this book is not a substitute for legal representation by or consultation with a competent attorney. If you feel you need an attorney to assist you, you are encouraged to hire one.