Pro Se Divorce on the Rise
Brandon, FL (Law Firm Newswire) November 12, 2012 - Divorce courts these days are seeing a lot fewer lawyers—and a lot more spouses choosing to represent themselves, a practice known as pro se.
However, family attorneys warn that saving money on legal representation might cost people their rightful assets.
“I am concerned that anyone getting divorced without legal representation may not be getting a fair deal when it comes to their financial concerns,” said O. Reginald Osenton, a Tampa bankruptcy lawyer. “In many cases, they may not fully understand their rights and remedies.”
Bad economic conditions prevailing across much of Florida and the rest of the nation mean that there are fewer assets for divorcing couples to fight over. Moreover, Internet resources providing basic legal forms and other information are increasing in number.
The collapse of housing prices has also contributed to the rise in pro se divorces. Before the collapse, home equity often represented the largest single asset to be divided in a breakup. But the precipitous drop in the market has eliminated that factor for many couples.
According to a report in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 55 percent of divorce cases in Sarasota and Manatee counties in the past five years have had one or both parties electing to represent themselves.
Many counties have governmental or non-profit legal resources to provide assistance for individuals who choose to represent themselves in court cases. However, as counties face budget crunches due to falling tax revenue, these resources are often stretched thin. For instance, Gulfcoast Legal Resources used to provide pro bono representation in family law cases, but was unable to secure further grant funding and was forced to close the program.
“Saving a few dollars through self-representation can be tempting, but clearly, public resources are not always up to the task of helping those who choose this route,” added Mr. Osenton. “Couples seeking divorce should strongly consider scheduling a consultation with an experienced divorce attorney, at the very least.”
Osenton Law Office, PA
500 Lithia Pinecrest Road
Brandon, Florida 33511
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