It almost goes without saying, but: you should never represent yourself during important legal matters. You might think you fully understand your own situation and the law, but there are always risks embedded in the process that can trip you up and cost you a ton of money AND freedom if you're not careful.
With that being said, we understand some people do go through the process on their own. In Florida, the Family Court Self Help Program (SHP) has been active since 1994. The purpose is to make sure those who do decide to go through these processes on their own have the resources and guidance necessary.
We'll be straightforward: we know this process can cost us potential clients and money. But we want to educate and guide Floridians everywhere for the betterment of our community. So, these are important factors you need to know should you try to represent yourself in divorce.
The Self Help Program allows those who are representing themselves to go through Self-Help Appointments. These appointments will provide you with the necessary information for your case, but they also require you to do some legwork yourself.
You should take careful note of when your appointment is because you will be forced to pay a fee and need to reschedule if you're late to your appointment at all. Other requirements for these appointments include:
- Proper identification
- Necessary payment of applicable fees
- Divorce filing information
- Copy of your marriage license (must be in English)
- Social security and date of birth info for you and your spouse
- Two regular envelopes with two appropriate stamps
You can read more about the specific requirements here.
One of the important aspects of Florida's Self Help Program to keep in mind is that it's not always accessible. In fact, at the time of this blog, the above appointments are not active due to COVID-19 limitations. They will resume, but if you're representing yourself and want to take advantage of the program you may need to wait.
Officials who work with the program will only be available when the courts aren't overwhelmed, and it's impossible to predict when this will happen. You could be left waiting a long time for an appointment should you want to go through the self-help process before proceeding with your case.
Lack of confidentiality
This point is major. Any conversation you have with your attorney should be protected by the attorney-client privilege. This means your conversations will remain confidential. However, the Self Help Program explicitly states conversation with “self-help personnel is not confidential and may be subject to disclosure at a later date.”
This could put your entire case at risk should you accidentally disclose information you otherwise wanted to protect from the court process. Be careful with those conversations and don't assume you can trust the officials at your appointments.
Keep an attorney in mind
Nobody can force you to retain an attorney in your divorce. You know your situation best. If there are no children or assets to consider in your divorce and both parties want to mutually move on, you may be able to represent yourself with little risk. However, if your situation is more complex you should at least have an attorney in mind when you need one.
At Florida Divorce Law Group, our goal isn't to get just any client in the door. We want to represent you and get you the freedom and peace of mind you deserve. Contact us today and don't go through the process alone.