The term “pro-se” refers to a person who is not represented by an attorney in a legal matter. A Pro-Se Divorce is one in which the parties obtain a divorce without either party having an attorney. You can obtain a Pro-Se divorce by yourself or with the help of a mediator.
Obtaining a divorce by yourself may be fine if you don’t have children and you have virtually no debts or assets. However, you need to be aware that entering into a divorce agreement or going to court without legal counsel can be a daunting task. There are challenges associated with being pro se, some of which you might not discover until after significant and costly mistakes are made. Common mistakes include a failure to understand the factors that go into a child support calculation with the result that the amount agreed upon is simply wrong. Another is a failure to know that assets such as retirement accounts are part of the marital estate and should be considered in a proper division of debts and assets.
The reality is that the outcome of your divorce can have a significant impact on your life and you should be aware of some of the challenges associated with obtaining a pro se divorce by yourself.
You can also obtain a pro-se divorce with the help of a mediator. In a mediation setting, the mediator must, by law, help you reach a “fair and equitable agreement that is consistent with Indiana law. He mediator need not be an attorney and cannot give you legal advice. However, the mediator CAN tell you what the law “says” so you know your agreement is consistent with the law. The mediator can also help you think outside the box in order to create an agreement that is right for your unique circumstances. Once agreements are reached, the mediator drafts the documents and files them with the court. Further, mediation levels the playing field and gives both parties the opportunity to “be heard” before they enter into an agreement. This gives both individuals control over the outcome while avoiding the kinds of mistakes pro-se individuals frequently make.
Since a mediator is a neutral third party, you can rely on their experience and expertise. Mediators often have networks of other professional, like financial planners or divorce coaches, who can help address all of the issues involved in your divorce. When other professionals are involved to help you work through specific aspects of your divorce, there’s less pressure on you as your own representative. Mediators are trained to diffuse conflict and find ways to work around it rather than to inflame areas of disagreement (which a divorce attorney might use in the courtroom). If you’re going to represent yourself in your divorce, consider pro-se divorce by mediation.