Pro Se Perils: The Case Against Self-Representation
Pro Se Perils when Parties Insist on Self-Representation in Their Case
The case against self-representation relies on the idea that one’s own judgment can be compromised by their emotion and investment in the underlying issue. Parties in divorce and family law actions should not represent themselves in the case without a lawyer, which is referred to as being a “pro se” party. “Pro se” is a Latin phrase meaning “for oneself” or “on one’s own behalf.”
Sometimes in a divorce, family law or suit involving a parent and child relationship there are people who cannot or will not hire and pay for an attorney to represent them in their case and in court. In busy courts and among busy attorneys in law firms there is a rhythm to many cases and the disposition of contested facts and legal issues. The pro se party may not know the law, is inexperienced in the application of the law and effectively changes the pace of the proceedings, slowing down the judge and any other attorneys in the cause.
A common appearance of pro se parties occurs in post-decree proceedings where one party believes they know enough to represent themselves in matters involving children and duties, particularly financially, to the other party as ordered by the Court and listed in the judgment and final order.
Watching YouTube Videos and Reading Divorce Lawyer Websites Does Not a Lawyer Make
The people who try to represent themselves are often quite intelligent with important careers and certainly the ability to learn. They may spend time reading through public records at and other divorce cases at the clerk’s office and at the law library where they are hunting for the perceived “magic words” lawyers use in law practice.
While one may learn how to change a tire by watching the examples of others, one cannot watch and think they have gained the years of experience of what pitfalls to avoid in trying to negotiate in a family law action.
Why the Unknown Can Hurt the Pro Se Party
While an intelligent individual may know enough to be able to write a basic motion and respond to same, they are not going to know the long-term affects of certain actions they could make while representing themselves pro se. This is also awkward for the judge and other lawyer who both may know the pro se is about to really hurt themselves, and it is not the job of that judge nor other lawyer to argue for or in favor of the perilous pro se party.
When a pro se party makes a wrong move in family law there may be an appeal forthcoming. An appellate court then takes their turn reviewing the record of district court proceedings where a pro se party has done themselves more harm than the perceived good by not hiring a lawyer like everyone else.
Pro Se Perils for the Attorney Who Must Respond to a Pro Se Party
When you are represented by an experienced divorce lawyer and your opposing party, usually former spouse is representing themselves and filing motions, your attorney has a legal duty to respond and represent you if they are still retained and or your cause is ongoing.
Substantive and procedural law follow a system and when a pro se does not understand the procedural system not the substantive law in the Texas Family Code and cases interpreting same, it puts your lawyer in bad position. Your lawyer may need to assume the argument of your pro se party opponent which can make things even more difficult for the judge and all involved when everyone is not on the same page.
Time and Resource Waste, the Opportunity Cost
Because the pro se party is learning as they proceed with their self-representation, the judge may need to continue hearings, make additional order regarding procedural matters and more. Your case is slowing down and seemingly will not end. Your attorney is duty bound to respond to and attend additional court appearances that may not have been necessary if both you and the other party were represented by experienced divorce counsel.
Hiring the Best Lawyer You Can Find, Saving Time and Resources
On the Scroggins Law Group website, read “Why Hire Us?”
Mark L. Scroggins is Board-Certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and frequently says during monthly divorce and family law podcasts that he recommends everyone hire the best attorney they can find. A well-experienced and exclusive family law practitioner can move quicker and negotiate and settle or litigate complex divorce and family law issues with finesse. When they have experienced similar issues and scenarios many times over, they have a better innate sense of how to best proceed to win for their client.
Getting things done right the first time is important in a divorce, family law or case involving children. Whether during the initial case or afterward with post-decree issues, there are significant perils for pro se parties and the case against self-representation is compelling.
Contact or call Scroggins Law Group in Dallas for more information about legal counsel and representation in Dallas, Collin and Denton Counties. The main office number at Scroggins Law Group is (214) 469-3100.