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How to Represent Yourself or Make Limited Use of a Lawyer

Divorce can be, and for most people, usually is to one degree or another overwhelming, complicated, and expensive.

Many people choose to hire an attorney to represent them in divorce proceedings, but the law and the courts do not require you to hire a lawyer to get divorced.

The number of individuals who choose to represent themselves in divorce, rather than hire an attorney, is increasing. There are many self-help resources available to assist individuals in the divorce process. They are not a perfect substitute for a lawyer, but if you are extremely short on funds or just don’t like lawyers, there are good alternatives out there.

Even if you have already decided that you would like to represent yourself in a divorce, rather than hire an attorney, it is without question a good idea to meet with (and yes, pay) an attorney first to discuss your situation, how the law will treat you, what your needs are, and what options you have. There are several legal clinics throughout the state of Utah that offer free legal information, advice, and resources.  If you go to a clinic where attorneys volunteer they will not represent you in court. https://www.utcourts.gov/howto/legalclinics.

The Utah State Courts website offers a detailed “how to” explanation of the divorce process in the state of Utah, which can be found by visiting https://www.utcourts.gov/howto/divorce. The “how to” section explains that before filing for divorce, it is important to understand that there are certain residency requirements for filing for divorce in the state of Utah. The Utah Code sections governing divorce can be found here and laws governing child support found here. It is important to understand the costs and fees that may be incurred when going through the divorce process. The “how to” website continues to explain the divorce process by defining and explaining the timeline of the divorce process, including types of pleadings one can expect, the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure, the mediation process (Utah Code § 30-3-38, § 30-3-39, and ), the trial process, decree of divorce, issues after the divorce, and several other matters.

Additional Resources:

Utah Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Act – Utah Code § Section 78B-6-201 et seq

Utah Uniform Mediation Act – Utah Code § 78B-10-101 et seq

Utah Rules of Court-Annexed Alternative Dispute Resolution (URCADR)

Utah Code of Judicial Administration Rules 4-510.01, 4-501.02, 4-510.03, 4-510.04, 4-510.05, 4-510.06

Utah Code Section 30-3-39 (Divorce Mediation)

Utah Code Section 30-3-38 (Co-Parenting Mediation [Visitation])

The Utah State Court System can seem complicated and overwhelming. Visit https://www.utcourts.gov/brochures/docs/Guide_to_the_Courts.pdf for a more detailed, yet accessible, explanation and guide to the Utah State Court System (it’s helpful, but don’t believe everything you read on the Internet).

If you are representing yourself in a divorce and do not have an attorney to assist you with preparing court documents, the Utah Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP) can be a useful tool. This program is a free service provided by the Utah Courts and State Legislature and is the official State of Utah website for assistance in preparing court documents. For more information about OCAP, visit https://www.utcourts.gov/ocap.

If you are uncertain about court documents you have prepared yourself, there are attorneys (including ours) who are willing to review your documents before you sign and file them. You can find attorneys in the state of Utah by visiting https://www.utahbar.org/directories/find-a-utah-lawyer.

If you feel that representing yourself in a divorce is not for you, but cannot afford an attorney, Utah Legal Services may be an option for you. Utah Legal Services is a nonprofit law office committed to providing free legal help in non-criminal cases to low-income Utahans. For more information, and to see if you are eligible, visit www.utahlegalservices.org. The Utah Legal Services website also offers a useful “questions and answers” section for divorce in Utah, which can be found by visiting https://www.utahlegalservices.org/public/legal_problem-en-us/family-law/divorce/begin-questions-answers-divorce.

The Legal Aid Society of Salt Lake is another nonprofit organization that promotes safety, stability, and self-sufficiency for low income families and individuals, as well as victims of domestic violence through effective, efficient legal advocacy and assistance. For more information, visit https://www.legalaidsocietyofsaltlake.org.

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