Many people in Pennsylvania file for divorce every year. Some choose to proceed without a lawyer and file the paperwork on their own. A person who is representing him or herself is known as a "pro se" litigant.
The first step a person who is filing for a divorce him or herself should take is to obtain paperwork that is specific to his or her state. There are many websites that offer complaint, summons and basic settlement forms. In some areas, local courthouses have the paperwork available.
The next thing a person who is filing for divorce should do is get all his or her financial documents in order. This includes pay stubs, tax returns for the last several years and banking and credit card statements. This information is essential for courts to examine when child support is an issue.
After the paperwork is filed, reaching a settlement agreement can speed up the process. If there are no issues involving asset division and child custody, a person's spouse may be able to simply sign the agreement, and then it can be sent to a judge for review. Many people choose mediation to save on litigation costs.
While filing for divorce is possible for pro se litigants, many people find that hiring a family law attorney makes the process much easier to understand and more efficient. Once the paperwork is completed, and a divorce is finalized, it can be very difficult to change any of the terms of an agreement or court order later. It is essential to make sure that the paperwork is done correctly during the initial proceeding.
For many people, having a discussion with their soon-to-be ex-spouse about how to divide marital property and what schedule will work best for child custody and visitation is difficult if not impossible. Having an attorney negotiate all the details in a divorce case can be much more practical. This will also ensure that all the paperwork is completed in compliance with state requirements.