Couples often divorce during difficult times. In the middle of an emotionally and financially tough time, you might wonder if you can start the divorce process on your own. You may be researching online for information about how to draft your own complaint for divorce. You might think that you can hire an attorney later if things get tough.
Your Complaint Matters
The first document that you file in court is called a complaint. Usually you file it with a summons in order to start a divorce action in a North Carolina court. The complaint sets the stage for the rest of your divorce proceedings.
Your complaint needs to include written requests for everything you might want out of the divorce proceeding. If you want primary physical custody, the complaint has to ask for it. If you want spousal support, you must include the request in your complaint. When you leave something out of your complaint, there’s a good chance that you’ve given up the chance to make that request even if you didn’t even know you needed to ask for it.
Your Reply Matters
Even if you’re not the one that files for divorce, your reply to the complaint is equally important. If you don’t file your reply properly and on time, you can lose your chance to participate in the divorce proceedings. When you prepare a reply, there are specifics that you need to get right. You must state that you admit or deny each paragraph in the other side’s complaint.
Deadlines and Filing Requirements
Litigants can also go wrong trying to go it alone when they miss deadlines or make errors in later court filings. It’s common for divorce courts to set time limitations. You may have to file all of your discovery requests by a certain date. Witness lists, exhibit lists and trial briefs are also common requirements. The court usually sets a deadline for pretrial motions.
If you don’t have a lawyer, the court still holds you to the same standards. You must comply with Rules of Civil Procedure when you prepare and file motions. This includes complying with notice and service requirements.
With so much on the line, it may seem like you can save a few bucks by trying to go it alone. However, it can end up costing you much more than you might have spent on the services of a competent lawyer. Getting divorced is one of the most serious and significant things you’ll ever do. You owe it to yourself and your family to get it right.