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Carl Fredericks, founder of the American Pro Se Organization, and New Jersey Matrimonial Attorney Michael Panagas, on Do-it-Yourself Divorce
Current Time: Sun May 4 02:38:51 EDT 1997

MsgId: jcafe(1)
Date: Thu May 1 21:33:58 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

Welcome to Thursday Night Live with guests Carl Fredericks, founder of the American Pro Se Organization and New Jersey Matrimonial Attorney Michael Panagas. Find out all about how to "Do It Yourself." Carl, can or should a couple who is able agree on a settlement get a divorce without hiring attorneys?
MsgId: jcafe(10)
Date: Thu May 1 22:05:53 EDT 1997
From: BigCarl1
At: 153.35.27.84

We have seen many instances where due to poor wording of do-it-yourself agreements big problems develop later... At least an attorney should review the agreement to make sure it is properly and clearly worded and did not miss any important items.
MsgId: jcafe(12)
Date: Thu May 1 22:06:34 EDT 1997
From: Excurlady
At: 152.163.195.164

Hi! I am representing myself in a custody issue--not a divorce a termination of guardianship--can I still join? We go to Court next Wednesday!
MsgId: jcafe(13)
Date: Thu May 1 22:07:22 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

Of course, Excurlady. Welcome. Carl, let's use as an example. A person wants to modify a child support order. How does he or she go about doing this without an attorney?
Date: Thu May 1 22:10:13 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

Carl Fredericks: The procedure would vary to a certain extent state to state. However, in most, if not all states, you would begin by filing a notice of motion. Typically, you would have to provide to the court financial information about yourself, information on the other party if you have it, and in many cases what has changed since the last order that should compel the court to modify the amount of child support. A typical reason would be a party lost a job, or the other party now has a lot more income. Under Federal law, parties are entitled to a revue of child support every three years
MsgId: jcafe(17)
Date: Thu May 1 22:11:25 EDT 1997
From: DC_staff
At: 168.100.204.58

Can you explain, please, what circumstances would best lend themselves to a pro se situation?
MsgId: jcafe(21)
Date: Thu May 1 22:14:14 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

You need a lawyer to advise you, but if the issues are not complex, you might be better representing yourself.
MsgId: jcafe(23)
Date: Thu May 1 22:15:56 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

Carl, what are the steps necessary to take in order to request something from the court?
MsgId: jcafe(24)
Date: Thu May 1 22:18:41 EDT 1997
From: bigcarl1
At: 153.35.27.84

You ask the court for something by way of a motion (Application)... A motion typically consists of 4 parts and sometimes 6. ...
MsgId: jcafe(26)
Date: Thu May 1 22:21:54 EDT 1997
From: bigcarl1
At: 153.35.27.84

The basic 4 elements of a motion are: 1) Notice of Motion; 2) Affidavit or Certification in support of motion; ... 3) Form of the Order desired; and 4) Certification (or Certificate) of Service to adverse party.
MsgId: jcafe(27)
Date: Thu May 1 22:24:26 EDT 1997
From: bigcarl1
At: 153.35.27.84

An affidavit should have reference to exhibits and them attached. In addition sometimes a Brief is required or may be helpful. A brief consists of legal arguments and "on point" case law.
MsgId: jcafe(28)
Date: Thu May 1 22:24:38 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

Those terms and forms seem daunting. How can a person with no legal experience make their way through the legal system?
MsgId: jcafe(29)
Date: Thu May 1 22:27:43 EDT 1997
From: CARL FREDERICK
At: 168.100.205.178

Without having an organization like America Pro Se providing a roadmap, it's rather difficult. Our telephone number is 908-753-4516. We would provide general information and lists of where to go. Our internet site is http://soho.ios.com/~legalhelp. In a few days, this will change to http://www.legalhelp.org
MsgId: jcafe(32)
Date: Thu May 1 22:30:27 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

Is it helpful to go to Family Court?
MsgId: jcafe(33)
Date: Thu May 1 22:33:20 EDT 1997
From: CARL FREDERICK
At: 168.100.205.178

Every state is different. Some states, such as Arizona in Maracopa County are very helpful to people representing themselves. Other Family Courts are not very helpful. If you cannot afford to retain an attorney, forms can be gotten from some courts and some stationary stores. You can fill out these forms if you have a simple situation. But even in this case, an attorney should revue the papers. America Pro Se has its own attorneys, who charge $1.00 a minute to review papers.
MsgId: jcafe(35)
Date: Thu May 1 22:35:05 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

A lot of people simply don't have the money to retain an attorney. What should they do?
MsgId: jcafe(36)
Date: Thu May 1 22:37:24 EDT 1997
From: bigcarl1
At: 153.35.27.84

Check with Amer. Pro Se Assoc. or possibly find a local attorney willing to act as a legal coach... typically they will only charge a modest fee for advice as contrasted to representation.
MsgId: jcafe(38)
Date: Thu May 1 22:41:57 EDT 1997
From: CARL FREDERICK
At: 168.100.205.178

A person does not have to join to get basic free information from American Pro Se Assoc. A person can join at any time. In most parts of the country the annual dues are $25. Local chapters have a right to set their own dues level.
MsgId: jcafe(39)
Date: Thu May 1 22:43:15 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

Can we go back to the example of modifying a child support order. What are the steps you would have to take?
MsgId: jcafe(40)
Date: Thu May 1 22:44:40 EDT 1997
From: CARL FREDERICK/MICHAEL PANAGAS, ESQ.
At: 168.100.205.178

The first step is to file an application with the court, usually called a notice of motion. The application would have to be drafted yourself. That's filed with the court and also sent to the opposing party. The application includes your statement of facts in which you tell the court the circumstances, financial facts, and the reasons why there should be a change in child support.
MsgId: jcafe(44)
Date: Thu May 1 22:47:55 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

MICHAEL PANAGOS: This is known as the Affadavit.
MsgId: jcafe(43)
Date: Thu May 1 22:47:45 EDT 1997
From:Divorce Central
At: 168.100.204.58

What happens in the instance where one partner employs a high priced attorney, and the other goes pro se?
MsgId: jcafe(45)
Date: Thu May 1 22:49:03 EDT 1997
From: CARL FREDERICK/MICHAEL PANAGOS
At: 168.100.205.178

We've seen many cases where the pro se has done quite well.
MsgId: jcafe(47)
Date: Thu May 1 22:50:05 EDT 1997
From:
At: 168.100.204.58

Can you provide a particular anecdote in which the pro se competes successfully with someone who has professional representation?
MsgId: jcafe(49)
Date: Thu May 1 22:52:03 EDT 1997
From: MICHAEL PANAGOS, ESQ
At: 168.100.205.178

Last year I had a case involving college costs and other issues. The pro se did quite well by writing a long narrative to the court, and in that case the court ran with it on her behalf. Ultimately, though, she got an attorney.
MsgId: jcafe(46)
Date: Thu May 1 22:49:55 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

Is it appropriate for a pro se person to make direct communication with the opposing attorney? How can a pro se person arrange for a conference with the judge?
MsgId: jcafe(51)
Date: Thu May 1 22:54:25 EDT 1997
From: MICHAEL PANAGOS, ESQ
At: 168.100.205.178

In most cases judges will not meet with pro se's in chambers, even if the other party is present. The judge will meet them in open court, however. A better idea may be to speak to the judge's law clerk, who often is involved in the decision-making process and will have a direct line to the judge.
MsgId: jcafe(52)
Date: Thu May 1 22:54:40 EDT 1997
From:
At: 168.100.204.58

Is it possible to go pro se in a partial fashion? --For just some parts of case but not others? And if so, which parts are best suited to the pro se process?
MsgId: jcafe(55)
Date: Thu May 1 23:03:15 EDT 1997
From: CARL FREDERICK
At: 168.100.205.178

It is possible in some states. The attorney can become involved in crafting the settlement agreement in New Jersey, for example. The pro se can do the actual divorce by filing a paper known as a Complaint for a Divorce in New Jersey. Other states have other ways to file for divorce.
MsgId: jcafe(56)
Date: Thu May 1 23:05:48 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

Thank you Carl Frederick and Michael Panagos for your helpful information on how to do your own divorce. Thank you everyone for joining us. This show will be available in our Expert's section. Please join us next Thursday at the same time for child development expert, Michelle Gersten, Ed.D., who will be discussing infants and very young children whose parents are divorcing. Good Night everyone.