Having said that, the "rest of the story" is that, while attorneys may not be required, there are some divorces in which it makes sense (and is prudent) for the divorcing parties to be represented by lawyers. In other cases, however, it may not be necessary.
The starting point is that everyone has the right to represent himself or herself in any kind of court case, including family law proceedings such as divorce (also called dissolution of marriage), custody (now called allocation of parental responsibilities), post-divorce modification of child support and parenting time, annulment, legal separation, grandparent visitation or custody, and step-parent adoption. But just because you have the right to be self-represented (the legal term is pro se) does not mean that it is smart to represent yourself.
In Colorado, statistics kept by the Colorado Judicial Department show that, in more than 50 percent of the divorce cases, one or both parties are not represented by an attorney. The percentage varies from judicial district to judicial district, with poor judicial districts more likely to have fewer divorce litigants who are represented by lawyers.
In some cases, particularly where the divorce is "simple," it makes sense for the parties to be self-represented. A case could be regarded as "simple" when there are little or no assets, there are no children who are less than 19 years old, and neither party is asking for the Court to order the opposing party to pay spousal maintenance. There also should be agreement between the parties on dividing the few assets there are.
Even in the "simple" cases," it makes sense for most people to pay for an hour or two of an attorney's time to go over the final documents and make sure that they are in order before submitting them to the court. Many attorneys are willing to meet with parties who have prepared the final documents (from the forms available on the Colorado Judicial Department's site) and go over the documents to let the client know whether they are properly drafted, and to make sure that all the documents required have been filled out.
In cases where there are substantial assets, or the parties have minor children, the parties should have attorneys, to make sure that they are being treated fairly, to assist them in reaching agreements, to make sure that agreements entered into are in the "best interest" of the children involved, and to answer questions about how the law works in Colorado, as well as to properly draft the documents, which can be complicated and require the skill of a trained attorney.
In some cases, parties simply do not have the resources to pay for any attorney time. In those cases, there may be free resources available, such as the Pro Se Clinic operated by the Arapahoe County Bar Association on Friday mornings at the Arapahoe County Courthouse. If you are looking for free resources, call your local District Court Clerk's office and inquire whether there is a free clinic or a Pro Se Resource Office at the Courthouse near where you live.
By Doris B. Truhlar