Special Issues When Dealing With a Pro Se Litigant

It is no secret that divorce or custody cases can be costly.  As a result, some parties may choose to forego hiring an attorney and represent him or herself during a custody or divorce case.  Although Minnesota law specifically states that self-represented, or “pro se,” parties must perform the same acts that are required of an attorney, there are still some special issues that need to be kept in mind when dealing with pro se litigants.

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One issue that arises in most cases where one of the parties is pro se is delay.  Attorneys are practiced in the necessary steps in a divorce and know how to move the case forward efficiently.  A pro se litigant will not have this same knowledge.  As a result, the case may drag on longer than necessary.  Fortunately, your attorney will be able to file motions to move the divorce or custody case along.

You should also be aware that your attorney will be dealing with special ethical issues when dealing with the pro se party.  Your attorney clearly cannot give the pro se party any legal advice.  To make sure there is no misunderstanding or confusion, it is possible that your attorney may want to conduct all communication with your spouse in writing.  Documenting the communication with the pro se litigant forecloses any risk that your spouse could allege your attorney is acting inappropriately or unethically by somehow being misleading about providing assistance to the pro se party.

Settlement can present special challenges when one party is appearing pro se.  When both sides are represented, both attorneys have an understanding of what is likely to happen if the parties cannot settle and must go to a final hearing.  This often helps facilitate settlement, as attorneys do not want to waste time making outlandish demands.  However, a pro se litigant is not likely to understand the probable outcome if the case is taken to a contested final hearing.  As a result, the pro se litigant could make settlement requests that are unrealistic or even impossible, slowing down or even totally stalling the settlement process.

We have experience helping our clients during all types of divorces.  Contact us today for a consultation.

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