In any divorce or family law litigation, it is vital that a party hire an attorney to represent them in the process. The reality is that lawyers know procedural nuances that an individual could only know if they have legal training.
For an individual to become a lawyer, they have to go through three years of law school on top of any prior undergraduate and graduate degrees that they hold.
In law school, lawyers take a civil procedures class. A civil procedures class helps accustom lawyers to various legal procedures and motions that lay people simply do not have the training to understand. Most divorce lawyers also learn the rules of trial procedure.
One legal discovery technique that many parties do not have any knowledge of are known as requests for admission. A request for admission is a series of written questions in which a party is asked to admit or deny the truthful of various statements. Lawyers learn about requests for admission in law school.
Requests for admissions are set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 36. However, state courts have their own rules regarding requests for admission. The procedures in state and federal court are roughly the same.
If a party has been served a request for admission, they have thirty days to file answers. Otherwise, the request for admission is deemed admitted. Rules of request for admission are unforgiving as it relates to getting extra time. Typically, the thirty-day rule is a hard and fast timeline. If a party misses the deadline, the request for admission is deemed admitted.
This is where pro she litigants can often be in a precarious position if they have been served a request for admission. They might not know the importance of responding within thirty days. They might not understand that extensions are not allowed under the rules. They might not even file the answer appropriately with a notarized declaration for example (which is almost always required).
There are numerous other reasons a party should have an attorney to represent them in their divorce or family law matter. However, procedure pitfalls like this are one important one. If a party does not have an attorney representing them, the lawyer representing the other spouse can often prey on the pro se party through procedure steps like this one.
For example, consider this as it relates to requests for admission:
- What if a party admits (by not answering) that they make a certain amount of money per year as income when they do not make this amount?
- What if a party admits (by not answering) that they engaged in marital misconduct, like an extra marital affair, when they did not?
- What if a party admits (by not answering) that they posted a particularly damaging post on social media when they did not?
The examples are numerous in terms of what a party could end up admitting to by not having legal counsel. No matter how you shake it, the reality is that it is dangerous not to have an attorney in a divorce or family law matter. A savvy lawyer for the other side will likely consider procedure moves like requests for admissions (and others) that the pro se party will not understand.