It would seem that in today’s world, if you are not a lawyer, you can basically do an entire lawsuit yourself. With the help of the internet, truthfully, pretty much everything is available to a pro se litigant. The problem is, there are so many small nuances in the law. I know how self-serving this sounds, but there is no question, you are much better off to get an attorney during and for a lawsuit than to not have one. Such as our divorce attorney in Tampa, or a divorce attorney in Hillsborough County. We have attorneys that do divorce all throughout the State of Florida. So, I understand how self-serving this blog is, but it is simply truthful. I cannot tell you the amount of people who have come in front of me and have our firm trying to fix things that they screwed up because they thought they could do it themselves.
Family law especially looks like it is at least easier to do without an attorney. Quite frankly all the forms are online. I believe most Courthouses even have a pro se section that you can go to to get the forms. The Supreme Court of Florida has already made most of the forms that I think you need for almost an entire case including even temporary relief. Again, the problem is the nuances. If you do not get, for example, a divorce lawyer in Tampa or a divorce lawyer here in Boca Raton, you may file the paperwork and get what is commonly referred to as a “default”. A default judgment happens when the responding party does not file a response within the time allotted. For a divorce action, the responding party must file some type of response within twenty (20) days of service. That is 20 calendar days, not business days.
So, let’s say you serve the paperwork and you think you have defaulted the other party. Then you move the Clerk of Court to enter a default judgment, etc. Well, you find out that you did not do one thing such as a UCCJEA. There are other things that you can miss as well. The problem is there are tons of things that you can miss. If you do not get a family law attorney from for example Tampa or St. Petersburg, or any of the other attorneys we have throughout the state, the money you are saving on attorney’s fees can cost you big time in the future from let’s say, equitable distribution, or retirement or even alimony. Another thing is that money that you are paying for an attorney also you are paying so you do not have to deal with the headache of litigation. If you are the respondent or a husband and wife in a divorce action, and you have a default against you, you may just give up. But the truth is, an attorney usually can find a way to get out of the default.
Do not get cocky with what I just said, defaults are real and they can kill you. But if there is a way to figure out a way to get out of the default, an experienced divorce attorney should be able to help you. Our firm specializes in representing men in divorce actions and we have gone through hundreds of these type of cases. If the party against whom affirmative relief is sought has not filed any papers in an action, the party bringing the action may request the Clerk to enter a default. Then, the Court may enter a default judgment against that party. However, if the party has filed or served any papers in the action, the party must be served with notice of the application for a default. In other words, once you have served the husband or wife and a default is now happening, if that party files any paperwork, you must give notice to that party that there is a default action pending. A Final Judgment entered after a default may be set aside without a showing of meritorious defense where papers had been filed prior to the default, but no notice of the default had been served, in violation of Rule 1.500. A default precludes the filing of any papers by the defaulting party except for those requesting relief from default. The Court may set aside a default and it may set aside a Final Judgment entered as a consequence of a default, in accordance with Rule 1.540(b). The Judgment cannot be rendered unless the Petitioner has stated and proved a proper case. A default judgment cannot cure a defective pleading which failed to state a cause of action.
Basically what this means is that if you do not have an attorney and you try to do this yourself and you do not file the paperwork properly, even if the other side doesn’t respond and you can get a default, you may not actually get what you originally wanted because you did not put it in your pleadings correction. Default judgments admit liability or entitlement to damages and any liquidated damaged claimed. However, unliquidated damages must be proved following the default judgment, upon notice to the defaulting party, who may then contest the amount of damages, but not the liability. A Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage entered upon a default may be set aside pursuant to Rule 1.540(b) where excusable neglect coupled with a meritorious defense and exercise of due diligence can be demonstrated. In a divorce action, a default judgment is also frequently set aside where there is children involved. The reasoning for this is simple, the Court and the legislature does not want people getting custody simply because a pleading was not answered or filed properly. The Court is always going to merit on the side of the best interest of the children no matter what deficiencies happen in the pleadings. This is not an absolute, of course, but it certainly is a strong rule of thumb.
Kenny Leigh & Associates specializes in family law for men. Boca Raton, Florida divorce attorneys and lawyers, Tampa and Ft. Lauderdale divorce attorneys and lawyers as well as Daytona divorce lawyers and many others totaling 9 offices throughout the State of Florida.