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How I Got Divorced Without Hiring a Lawyer - The Atlantic

I am embarrassed to say I did not know this. Then again, having never attended law school, why would I? I assured him, once again, that it would not cost him a penny. Had we actually had lawyers, all those emails would have been read and processed by both lawyers, at an hourly rate. On the day of the hearing at family court, we arrived separately at the appointed hour. Then we waited.

And waited.

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We were the only couple in family court actually sitting together on the same bench. Everyone else had lawyers and was scattered as far away from their former spouses as the space in the room allowed. By doing it pro se, we were being forced into something resembling civility. I suddenly felt slightly smug about how well this was going. Then my ex began to lose patience as the first hour of waiting stretched into a second, and I was worried he would leave.

Now I was feeling much less smug. My ex stood alone at his table, I stood alone at mine, the width of a wedding aisle between us. My heart was racing. Doubt crept in once more: representing myself in family court? What was I thinking? He turned to my ex and asked the same. I want 50—50 custody. I was confused. Suddenly, what should have been an easy day in court became anything but.

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I quickly Googled 50—50 custody under the table. With precise, down-to-the-hour 50—50 custody in New York State, I learned, the higher earner would be responsible for paying child support to the lower earner. This was one of the many issues that tore us apart, the inequity in our domestic responsibilities. My smugness was gone. I longed for a lawyer. The only way this custody hearing would work without representation is if we presented a united front.

He asked us to meet in his private chambers with his clerk, who would help us draft a temporary agreement. But for now—down came the gavel—our hearing was over. I cried in those private chambers. My great experiment in self-representation felt as if it had failed. Our new hearing was scheduled for three weeks later, exactly one week after I was scheduled to have major surgery to remove my cervix.

I begged my ex, with the clerk sitting between us, to just keep the arrangement we had in place. He refused. The clerk, a woman, reached out and squeezed my hand. Fearing losing momentum, I said yes to the new court date and agreed to a temporary order of custody, acquiescing to everything my still-husband now wanted until a permanent agreement could be reached. Of all the reasons I kept putting off divorce for years, this was by far the most heartbreaking: the pain of a young child caught in its cogs.

Then, the next morning, a miracle.


Of course it could, I said. I showed up in family court three weeks later, fresh from having my cervix yanked. The rest of the pro se proceedings went fairly smoothly, after I lost several weeks to further complications from the surgery, when the stitches holding me together came undone. I bled out, which required a second emergency surgery three weeks after the first.

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Child-support payments were decided in a single hearing in family court by a support magistrate , who is not a judge but who has legal authority to decide issues of child support. Would a lawyer have argued for more support money on my behalf? Friends afterward told me I was cheating myself and my kids, going it alone. But though a lawyer might have been able to increase my child-support payments by a small fraction, our combined income back then was modest and finite. Would that tiny margin of more support really outweigh the cost of the legal fees it took to achieve? Either one spouse will have to buy out the other, or the home will have to be sold so that the proceeds can be split evenly.

I understand why many of my divorced friends wanted to keep the family home, so the kids could have some stability amidst the chaos. In fact, a clean slate felt better, liberating. When the child-support hearing was over, my ex and I reached across the aisle and spontaneously hugged. The judge smiled. At the end of December , I finally had what I thought were all the signed papers, rulings, and affidavits in hand. Or was it steps? I panicked. Felt paralyzed once more.

Filing Without an Attorney

The handout at the courthouse listed 20 documents I needed to file to be done with my divorce, in a specific order, and looking over that list, I had no idea what most of them were. I emailed Delruelle and apologized for bothering her again, but I needed help navigating the final leg of this journey.

With knee surgery for a torn meniscus scheduled days later, I begged him: Please, I was heading into another six-to-eight-week recovery. I really wanted to file the final papers prior. Sorry, he said. It could not be helped. What are the benefits of uploading converted documents? How should I upload my documents? Is there a limit to the size megabytes of my document? Can I submit fillable forms via eFiling? In accordance with rule 2. Electronically filed documents subject to the mandatory electronic filing requirements in probate, limited civil, unlimited civil, and complex civil actions can be filed until midnight on the day that the filing is due, and will be considered timely pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section See Cal.

Rules of Court, Rule 2. Any electronically filed document received by the Court on or after midnight will be file stamped on the next court day. If your hearing date is within 24 hours or was ordered by the court to be filed today or you have some other reason to contact the court about an urgent filing, please call the court, between the hours of am and pm, at , so that we can expedite the processing of your documents. Please make sure that you have your eFiling transaction number so that we can better assist you.

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  • California Rules of Court, rule 2. While digital signatures are not required, if you choose to utilize them for your filing, please contact your electronic filing service provider for reference materials on how to set up digital signatures in Word or WordPerfect.

    For a listing of approved electronic filing service providers, go to the Civil eFiling or Probate eFiling section of this website. Courtesy copies of trial documents are required, as outlined in Orange County Superior Court, local rule To determine if courtesy copies of other documents are required, please check with the courtroom that your case is assigned to for their policy. Failure to correctly select the proper filing name can result in a delay in the processing of your filing. Yes, both writs and abstracts must be submitted electronically. Abstracts and Orange County writs will be returned to you through your vendor.

    Please note abstracts and Orange County writs should be printed in color prior to submitting to the respective agencies. Writs submitted for counties other than Orange will be returned via mail to the attorney of record or self-represented litigant. If your document is filed under seal or is confidential pursuant to statute, no special action is needed.

    If a case is ordered sealed by the court it is not eligible for eFiling. Because it is sealed, your Electronic Filing Service Provider will not have any information regarding your case. Please submit your documents at the appropriate courthouse if they are for a case that has been sealed by the court. This does not apply to Unlawful Detainer cases, which can be eFiled. When submitting documents for eFiling, the first page of each document must comply with California Rules of Court, rule 2.

    Please note documents should not need to be divided due to their size, if you have a question about submitting a large filing please contact your electronic filing service provider for assistance. If your case has been consolidated, the eFiling must be submitted under the lead case number.