Can I Use a Paralegal Instead of a Divorce Attorney?

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Question: Can I Use a Paralegal Instead of a Divorce Attorney?

Answer:

Yes, in most states it is legal to use the services of a certified paralegal to help with the paperwork generated by the divorce process. In some states independent paralegals have been given legal right to serve as “legal document preparers.” Meaning, if you have a motion to file or petition to draw up, you are within your legal rights to hire a paralegal to do so.

Paralegals Can:

  • Prepare divorce forms for you,
  • Tell you where those forms need to be filed,
  • Tell you how to serve divorce forms on your spouse,
  • Help you fill out state specific forms for modifying child support or alimony.

Paralegals can’t give you legal advice though. They also can’t go to court and advocate for you the same way a divorce attorney will. If you are experiencing a fairly simple, uncontested divorce you can save money going this route.

If your divorce is highly conflicted with issues such as a custody battle or large assets to split a paralegal is not something you want to consider. Their knowledge of court procedure and state divorce laws are limited which makes them less valuable in a high conflict situation.

As with a divorce attorney, you should not contract with a paralegal without first doing research into his/her background. Check with your Better Business Bureau for any complaints.

Ask about their experience and education. Experience and qualifications are imperative when choosing a paralegal!

I found out, via my own personal experience, that a paralegal can be a valuable asset if you are not using an attorney. I had experience representing myself in family court in the state of Alabama, was very familiar with the laws and court procedures.

 

When I moved to a new state and my ex showed up after six years with a lawyer and a petition for custody of our younger son, I was lost. And, I was broke with no money to hire an attorney. Being unfamiliar with the laws and procedures of my new state I started doing my homework. I also began to worry because a custody case was far more legally treacherous than anything I'd done on my own before. I knew I needed help making sure I was filing the appropriate paperwork with the appropriate court.

I went online and research paralegals and found one who, for a small fee, would look over the case paperwork and help me get everything done appropriately. Here is the kicker, my paperwork was in good order, come to find out my ex's attorney had filed the petition for custody with the wrong court.

Imagine the pleasure I felt when I filed a petition to have it dismissed based on his attorney's mistake. I had a good time in court that day. Especially when the judge grinned and said, "she gotcha!" My ex and his attorney had to start over and file the paperwork in the proper court, which he stubbornly did.

Thanks to the paralegal we slowed down the process a bit and when I did show up in court all my documents were properly filed and in order.

Help can come from unexpected places.

If you aren't able to hire an attorney but need to use the court to protect your legal rights, a paralegal can guide you through the process and alliviate a lot of stress and anxiety.