Looking for post-divorce Pro Se resources.
July 3, 2012 7:41 AM   Subscribe

Looking for post-divorce Pro Se resources.

I am looking for resources to help me represent myself Pro Se in continued and ongoing post-divorce difficulties requiring mediation and court involvement.

My ex-wife continues to interfere with my parent-child contact/visitation and it seems the only way to see my child is to ask the court to enforce our final order. I have been doing this, but I am quickly running out of money. The original divorce agreement cost me $10K and I am now an additional $5K into post-divorce dealings. The end is not in sight, but the end of my savings is.

My ex-wife's apparent tactic towards getting her way is to be uncompromising and extend negotiations as long as possible which drains my resources, both financial and otherwise. Then, when we finally do reach an agreement and everyone signs and we move forward, she simply doesn't follow the agreement and forces me to return to court, further draining my limited resources.

My ex-wife's family has millions in cash and assets. She receives a sizable income from trusts, etc. I make around $30K a year, after child support and before taxes. Soon I will simply be unable to afford to pay my lawyer any more and will be at an extreme disadvantage. I need to start researching the steps I will need to take and the things I will need to consider when I am forced to go Pro Se.

I will of course ask my lawyer for advice about it, but I will need my own resources and haven't found much other than articles telling me it would be a bad idea. I also will try to lean more heavily into mediation; however, my ex-wife has refused to participate in mediation in the past and will only do so at the behest of her lawyer and only insofar as to fulfill the obligation of our final order disagreement process. It ends up being just another way to extend difficulties and costs.

Also, if anyone has any good resources for dealing with a parent who is trying to alienate their child from the other parent, that would be helpful too. I am having a hard time figuring out which resources for this sort of thing are legitimate and which are just upset parents venting and giving potentially damaging advice.
posted by doomtop to Law & Government (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh: I am in Vermont.
posted by doomtop at 8:05 AM on July 3, 2012

IAAL, but not licensed to practice in your state and this is not legal advice.

If you want to do it on your own, start with you court clerk. Most courts (in my state) have forms available for filing motions. Some will also waive the filing fee if you meet certain income thresholds.

Do you have an office called Friend of the Court? This office (in my state) is a quasi-judicial office that helps parents enforce orders regarding custody, parenting time and child support.

Also, talk to your lawyer (or look up your state's laws) on attorney fees. In my state, we can ask for attorney fees if one parent's unreasonable behavior is what merits the bringing of a motion. My best guess is that the court will eventually ding her if you keep having to drag her in.

(It's also OK to shop around for a cheaper lawyer or look in to Legal Aid.)
posted by mibo at 8:06 AM on July 3, 2012

Response by poster: @mibo: There is something called an Amicus brief, or "Friend of the Court" brief. That's not what you mean is it? I don't know about an office with that name, but will see if I can find such a thing.

I am asking for attorney fees, but there's no guarantee and I may run out of money before that even gets decided.
posted by doomtop at 8:14 AM on July 3, 2012

Response by poster: While I don't think I qualify for Legal Aid, I did find this page via your link, which is very useful.
posted by doomtop at 8:23 AM on July 3, 2012

A friend of the court brief is not relevant to your situation.
posted by dfriedman at 8:44 AM on July 3, 2012

Yeah, it looks like your courts do not have the office that my courts do. Ignore that bit and speak to the clerk about getting copies of forms and court rules.
posted by mibo at 8:57 AM on July 3, 2012

If there's a law school near you they may have a clinic or other resources that could be helpful.

If you have time, I would recommend spending as much of it as you reasonably can watching other people's family court processes and how other pro se individuals and lawyers handle things.

Make sure you get documentation (police report?) each time your wife denies you access to your child.
posted by Salamandrous at 9:12 AM on July 3, 2012

Men's rights groups are super creepy but if you have no where else to turn one might be able to help you.

Then again they can be pretty creepy so I'd be careful about this and would only go to them as a last resort.
posted by Aizkolari at 9:15 AM on July 3, 2012

When you talk to your attorney about it, be frank about your concerns that you will be forced to go pro se because of the disparity of resources between you and your ex-wife. Your attorney may be able to work out something with you.

Don't rule out legal aid. Many legal aid office offer sliding scale services--if you don't qualify for free services, you pay a reduced rate based upon what you can afford. Many of them also have self-help packages available, as well, that offer common documents (you fill in the blanks), step by step instructions, and plain language articles about what to expect or how to handle yourself.

In the county where I live, our courts have a domestic relations help desk, much like mibo mentioned. It's administered by the chief judge of the domestic relations division. You could call the court and ask what self-help resources are available. You can also call the local CASA agency--they will not be able to help you because CASA agencies advocate for abused and neglected children--but many local agencies keep referral lists for legal aid or private attorneys who handle difficult custody situations. CASA may also have resources for support groups. You're right to distrust unvetted resources regarding custody matters (even ask.me!).
posted by crush-onastick at 9:52 AM on July 3, 2012

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