Although it has been sometime since I have posted a blog, there are some things we are continuing to see that you should be aware of, particularly when handling your own divorce or family court matter without an attorney. Pro per means that there is no attorney involved, i.e. a party is representing themselves in court. The Superior Court in Maricopa County has a self help center, which allows many to process their dissolution proceeding or family court matter on a pro per basis. These self help service forms are a great help for those who cannot afford an attorney, have a relatively “simple” matter, or prefer to proceed without an attorney.
Some of the issues we are seeing, when clients come to us to “fix” something in their documents, is that parties are leaving out assets, not recognizing assets, or simply not completing the forms, particularly the final Decree or Order in as much detail as is required. In one case recently handled, the parties completed a dissolution proceeding and obtained a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage with both parties being pro per. Both parties continued to reside together in the same residence until after the Decree was signed and entered by the court. The Decree indicated that each party was awarded any asset that she or he had possession of at the time the Decree was entered. When one of the parties finally moved from the family residence, which had been awarded to the other party, there ensued a great dispute as to whom actually had “possession” of the assets located at the residence. This included vehicles, watercraft, household furniture, etc. Because of that issue, both parties had to then hire attorneys and engaged in an extensive and expensive litigation regarding which party had “possession” of which assets.
Had one or both parties, at the very least, discussed their matter with an attorney and had their final documents reviewed, this issue may not have arisen. This simple procedure could have prevented extensive litigation in this particular case, by properly dividing their assets. Keep in mind that this type of issue can also occur with regard to parenting time, child support, spousal maintenance, or just about any other issue to be found in a family law matter, when the final Decree or Order is not specific enough to prevent a conflict down the road.
People “do not know what they do not know” and it is for this reason that this firm expresses a strong opinion that any party that wishes to proceed on a pro per basis, at least consult with an attorney with regard to the adequacy of their final documents. In this manner, you can hopefully be assured that issues you may not have thought of that could arise, are resolved or avoided.
As always our firm offers a free consultation for those residing in Maricopa County and an initial telephonic consultation for those residing outside of Maricopa County, Arizona. Our phone number is 602-404-9733. The firm practices exclusively in the area of family law, which includes custody, parenting time, child support, paternity etc. Please visit our website at leatherlawoffice.com.