Self-representation?

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-19-2007
Self-representation?
8
Thu, 06-05-2014 - 7:34pm

Hi everyone, I had posted some months ago on behalf of my mom.  My stupid father claims he fired his divorce attorney and can represent himself as he "knows the law" (in New York, no less).  How in the world does that work?  And does he talk with my mother's attorney and negotiate???  That doesn't seem right.  And seeing as he can barely write a check I don't see how in the world he is going to do the paperwork, correspondence, etc. involved in a divorce.  I think he under the impression that this will get him off the hook payng legal fees, expecting my mother's lawyer to do all the work, at her expense.  What a mess.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Thu, 06-05-2014 - 9:00pm

He has the right to represent himself but it's usually a mistake.  I'm a divorce lawyer and I have actually done trials against people who were pro se and didn't know what they are doing.  It's a big pain.  Of course he will be held to the same standards as someone who has a lawyer.

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-19-2007
Thu, 06-05-2014 - 10:01pm

Thanks Musiclover.  I can't even begin to think how he could possibly accomplish this.  So would he communicate with my mom's lawyer?  I heard that lawyers don't like to negotiate with non-lawyers in divorce cases because because they don't want to risk being sued for malpractice lest they get accused of not fairly representing their client by conversing with "the other side".  Like I said before, I think my dad thinks my mom's lawyer will do all the legwork and he just sits back and waits...for free.  He fired his lawyer because he got tired of being charged!  Like lawyers, or anyone for that matter, work for free?  He is unreal.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-20-2009
Thu, 06-05-2014 - 11:37pm

In Ohio, two people can share a lawyer, but that is only if the two people agree to agree on everything, i.e.: splitting of assets, child support, child visitation, etc.  Very few people can agree on everything.  I know of two people who did this, partly like your father, to avoid paying two attorneys.  In both cases, it went thru with no hitches, except in both cases, the men weren't happy, they felt they were railroaded into agreeing to things they didn't WANT to agree with.  One of them was my son.   I told him NOT to share the lawyer, but he did anyway, and later regretted it.  And I'm sure that if your father expects your Mom's attorney to do anything on HIS behalf, he will be charged for it.  And it might end up to be to your Mother's benefit, if your Father is looking for "cut rate" services.  You know the old saying, "you get what you pay for". 

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-19-2007
Fri, 06-06-2014 - 9:06am

Thank you Fissatore.  Unfortunately, this is not an easy and far from amicable divorce.  My parents have been married for 50 years.  My father is beng a sneaky nasty bastard.  He is 72 years old, is battling recurrent colon cancer, and has totally lost his mind.  My mother is 68 with health issues too (diabetes and vascular issues).  I currrently live with them becaue I am afraid to leave my mother alone with him and he is squirrling away large sums of money so I help my mother financially so she can take care of medical needs, food, bills, etc.  I had posted about this a few months ago on this board ("Divorce after 50 Years", I think).  It was under another user name because ivillage gave me a hard time logging on here and so I put in an old email address and it let me login under this older user name (with posts from when I was young and stupid, lol).  So that post contains some more details of the situation.

Another thing that does not make this simple and easy is my parents' house and property upstate, the bulk of their marital assets is in an IRREVOCABLE trust.  My father cannot grasp this concept.  He thinks it's all "his" (which after 50 years would certainly not be the case anyway).  So even though it's my parents' house and property, it's really "owned" by the trust.  If it is sold, the money is to go back into the trust.  And here's the kicker: a judge can force my parents to sell it in a divorce, but the trustees (me and my sister) have to agree and the judge cannot force us, he/she cannot override the trust...thus the term "irrevocable".

Hardly the situation you'd want to represent yourself in!  Even my mother's attorney has deferred to my parents' trust lawyer for a lot of info as this type of estate law is highly specialized and not many attrorneys are familiar with it.

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-20-2009
Fri, 06-06-2014 - 11:14am

Just out of curiousity, why does your father want this divorce, (another woman?) or is it your mother that wants it?  If he's not healthy, and/or battling cancer, are you sure he's not in early dementia?  Can't it be "dragged out" for a long time?  Can you or your sister have him declared incompetent?  I know that's a terrible thing to do, but you have to protect your mother, and it's not right that if they have all these assets, that you should have to be helping your mother financially.  I hope that you've informed your mother's attorney about what's going on, and he can very easily tell your father that he can't advise him.  Then if your father really screws things up for himself, so be it.  When I was divorced many years ago, my lawyer's first question to me was "are you in a hurry to re-marry?"  I told him no way!  At that point I'd been married a little over 18 years.  My lawyer told me he would drag his feet until we'd been married for 20 years, which at that time was the length required for me to be eligible for his social security if I outlived him, or if half of his was more than what I would get on my own employment record.  I'm glad my lawyer was on the ball, because I hadn't realized that till he told me.  My ex passed away over 8 years ago, and my "income" almost doubled at that point.  So, there ARE ways to delay the actual divorce, if you want him/her to.  In any case, be sure that the attorney is aware of what your father is doing.  Good luck to you and you mom!

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-19-2007
Fri, 06-06-2014 - 11:48am

It is definitely my father's idea for the divorce (although now he's caused so much damage my mother is completely done with him).  After our taking care of him the last few years with his cancer, he declared he wants a "better life" than his 50 year marriage to a woman who sacrified everything to make him a beautiful home, raise his kids, do his bookkeepig for his business, take care of him up to and including spending hours on the phone, etc. arranging their medical insurance to afford his cancer care to avoid medical bills that probably would have caused them to lose their house.  Oh, let's not forget wanting to get away from his beautiful , mortgage-free house in a beautiful neighborhood, his easy, debt-free life...all 'cause he hooked up with a high school sweetheart at his reunion last year (but they are "just friends", he maintains).

Yet he remains in the house (no way to get him to leave, unless he hits my mother, which even he is not stupid enough to do...funny how emotional and financial abuse don't count) and has yet to file for divorce.  Like I said, I think he thinks, since firing his attorney (who sucked, by the way) that my mother will do the legwork and pick up the tab. 

I understand about dragging it out and it is a good point but it is very hard to live in the meantime, as he takes in 3x the money she does.  I don't know how they enforce support when there is no oppsoing attorney to work with.  Plus just the stress of living with him (and no, my mother is not in a position to leave, nor should she have to; I think this is what he is hoping she will do, actually.)  We are meeting with her attorney Monday, I hope he can help her decide what to do next.  That incompetent thing has me intrigued...I will do whatever I need to do to protect my mother.

 

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Sat, 06-07-2014 - 4:14pm

Yes your mother's lawyer would communicate with him directly.  The reaon that lawyers don't like it when there is a pro se party on the other side is not due to the fear of malpractice--it's because the person who isn't represented doesn't know the law and usually what they want is something unreasonable (as you pointed out with the irrevocable trust).  Some lawyers are also unreasonable  but say you had a person who wanted something that was clearly not allowed--normally their lawyer would be able to talk some sense into them.

I don't understand why your mother can't get a temporary alimony order so that she has money while the case is going on.

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-02-2008
Mon, 06-09-2014 - 9:46am

Hi

I read your story and ask does your mom work? If not she is still entitled to the marital money if there is any .. Like where is the checking account? savings accounts??  whatever martial assets there are  your mom is still entitled to them as they are still legally married..

When I was getting a divorce from my ex I lived in the same house with him and yes NY State as the laws here suck for divorce and all... Anyway; So my ex sued me and I just waited it out and stayed living in house with him.. It was very difficult but I had no where to go and very limited income so I took a room in the house and waited it out.............I did have a part time job and there was a rental apt. that my stbx had and the lawyer I consulted with (didnt pay much) told me to take that money so I did and that is what I lived on for a year and half.. I had to also stretch out the time so I was able to get his social security which was greater than mine.. So I managed to stay married to him for ten years and that was when I was 51.. I am now 60 and glad I waited it out.... So wouldnt your mom be eligible for alimony, social security and half of the marital assets but she might have to wait that all out.........If your dad wants the divorce then he will have to do the work and pay the bills... In the end you get whatever the entitlement is and not what the lawyers say unless its contested and that costs more money in wh ich your dad doesnt want to pay now.. and being they were married for 50 years then your mom should be okay.....

So If that were me I would just wait it out and stay in the house and try and just live life the best you can....Dont deal with your dad and tell your  mom to just do what she can and if possible start taking money out of the bank or checking account or whatever and use it live or save it.............. Does she see a therapist?? I would also attend some therapy or groups where they are geared toward sep. and divorce... I also did attend a Displaced Home Makers program which was for older women and it helped me alot.....

There is alot you can do but it takes times and finding the right venues....