Colorado’s First Judicial District, which encompasses Jefferson and Gilpin counties, has opened a self-help center to help litigants without attorneys negotiate the complexities of the civil court system. The center is located in the Jefferson Combined Court in Golden. It will assist self-represented parties in non-criminal matters, including divorce. The center will provide assistance in filling out forms, and information about ways to resolve disputes without going to court, as well as other services. In Boulder County, similar services can be obtained through Boulder County Legal Services, a non-profit organization.
Getting divorced without a lawyer is already fairly common in Colorado. In fact, in about 63 percent of Colorado divorce cases neither party is represented by counsel. But it is not a good idea for everyone.
A do-it-yourself divorce might work out if the couple has no children, little property, and the divorce is uncontested. Even in those cases it can be a very risky move. To cite just one example, some parties may not realize they have a legal right to a portion of their spouse’s retirement savings.
In a high asset divorce, or indeed any divorce in which the couple owns a home and has some assets, going it alone can be very dangerous. Asset valuation and asset division generally require the assistance of an attorney with a nuanced understanding of the complexities of these areas. Complex asset division does not lend itself to a fill-in-the-blanks solution, at least not if a spouse wants to get all they are legally entitled to. And a litigant without an attorney is unlikely to discover whether their spouse is hiding assets.
When children are involved the assistance of an attorney is even more critical. Issues of child custody, visitation and child support are not only fraught with emotion, they require a sophisticated grasp of the applicable law. Going through a divorce without an attorney might save some money up front, but it can be very costly in the long run.
Source: Law Week Colorado, “First District Offers Aid to Self-Represented Litigants,” May 17, 2013