FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2012-04-20
In New Jersey and other states, an individual who decides to represent himself or herself in court rather than hiring an attorney is called a “pro se” litigant. The law does not require you to hire a lawyer to handle legal matters such as your divorce proceedings, but you may be at a severe disadvantage if you take the case yourself, especially if your spouse has legal counsel. Therefore, hiring an attorney is highly encouraged for several reasons.
Besides saving you time on researching the law, completing forms and preparing legal documents, hiring a lawyer ensures that someone who understands concepts like marital property and equitable distribution is in charge of your case. Failing to understand or consider marital property can cause you to lose important assets during your divorce, according to the Centre Daily Times.
Marital Property in New Jersey
Most divorce-related issues are not simple, and seemingly straightforward topics often have legal definitions much different than their everyday meanings. For example, a couple’s assets fall into the categories of marital property and separate property. Do you know the difference? Marital property is not just everything you and your spouse jointly purchased. Rather, most property either one of you acquired during your marriage, except for certain gifts and inherited property, qualifies as marital property and is subject to property division by the court.
Another question to ask yourself before going pro se: Do you understand how debt is categorized and allocated during divorce? Just because your spouse incurred the debt does not mean that you cannot be saddled with it as a result of the distribution of assets and debt that takes place in every divorce case under New Jersey’s Equitable Distribution Statute, according to the Times. Assets and liabilities are not split down the middle. The courts use an exhaustive list to determine how marital property and debt should be distributed.
Whether you are considering filing for divorce or already going through divorce, you should contact a knowledgeable divorce attorney who can explain the law and advocate on behalf of your legal rights and financial interests.