Why do pro se litigants fail so often? And if you’re wondering what a pro se litigant is, here’s the definition:
someone who argues his/her own case in a lawsuit, rather than having a lawyer represent him/her and do the legal work for him/her. “Pro se” is Latin for “on behalf of oneself”.
So why do pro se litigants fail so often? This is a great question and one that you should ask, if you haven’t already. You may be wondering if you should go the pro se route yourself. It’s a perfectly fair question for your to ask. Many lawyers will “answer” this question with an Emperor’s New Clothes kind of response, i.e., “Oh, come on, are you really thinking representing yourself? That’s crazy. Surely you see that.”
Others are little more sophisticated and give you that “You wouldn’t try to remove your own appendix, would you? No, you’d hire a pro!” But that doesn’t really answer your question either.
Is it too hard to represent yourself in court in a divorce case? Is it more trouble than it’s worth? Is it a question of “yes, I could do it myself, but should I?”
See, with rare exception, virtually every divorce attorney won’t tell you what you really want to know because they are afraid you will determine that once you know you will decide not to hire an attorney. I am not afraid of that. With that stated, here is the truth:
No matter how well prepared you are and how well you know the argument and how good your argument is, there’s a very good chance that your arguments will fall fully or partially on deaf ears. Why?
Because pro se litigants generally do such a terrible job that courts have low and negative expectations of pro se litigants generally. As a result, courts often just put up mental and emotional walls at the very mention of “pro se litigant”. That’s too bad. It’s unfair to the pro se litigants who know what they’re doing and do it well.
But the fact of the matter is that so many crazy and ill-prepared, rambling, incoherent pro se litigants have passed through the courthouses that they’ve spoiled it for everyone else.
If you’re a well prepared well-versed pro se litigant, you’re just not going to be received as well and taken as seriously as someone who shows up in court with a competent lawyer.
Wait, am I saying that sometimes you need a lawyer, if only as a prop? Yes. Exactly. That’s what I’m saying (now don’t get the idea that it’s because law is easy–it’s not; while I concede it is not rocket science it still takes a lot of time, effort, brains, patience, and thick skin to learn, understand, and apply effectively). It might even be better for you simply to prepare a script for your prop lawyer to read if you want to ensure that your argument is heard and understood and taken seriously. It’s a reason for why you need a lawyer (and need to pay that lawyer) that most lawyers and courts don’t want to admit, but it’s no less true.
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277