Contested divorce without lawyer


My wife and I have been seperated for over a year now. We have 2 children, and between the added expense of maintaining a seperate residence and paying child support (not court arranged) I have little money to hire a lawyer for a divorce. She is very angry, and unreasonable with the children when she is upset, and will not agree to mediation so we can get a formal agreement done. How can I move this divorce along and establish some of my fatherly rights in an affordable way. I do not want anything (house, belongings etc.) just time with my children and less drama. Is there any way to get this done if I don’t have thousands to spend on an attorney? Many things like the house and some credit accounts are still under both of our names and to make matters worse we work at the same company as well. Please help!


You can file for an absolute divorce and that could be granted with little problem if there are no issues of marital asset division brought up. Any joint accounts should be closed and the debt should be divided. As for the mortgage, though she may not be willing to sign an agreement does not mean you can not drawn one up. Contact the mortgage company and explain the situation.

Sadly, it sounds as though you will need to file for custody. That would force the issue of mediation where the children are concerned. Custody can be filed for at any time even if the divorce is finalized.
Keep a record of the current issues involving the children. Visitations that have been refused or anything of that nature. If you have no agreement and no court order, then you both have equal access to the children. Regardless of the drama it may create, if you want time with your children, you are going to have to put your foot down. You are the father and you are as entitled to custody as your stbx.
There are other fathers on here that can tell you their stories, but if you ALLOW the current situation to continue then the current situation is what the stbx will become to expect.
The drama…I can tell you from experience that it does lessen with time. It’s not easy but after the first time that you put your foot down and don’t allow the drama to begin, it will get easier every time. If you are not having a reasonable discussion about the children, end the discussion. As much as possible, make all requests in writing so that you have a record of responses. Keep in mind that usually nothing that caused the demise of your marriage involves the children, so don’t allow yourself to be drawn into an arguement.
Keep the personal situation out of the office, if at all possible. It may be difficult, but do not allow this to affect your work. All communications between you should be on your own time. E-mails through a personal account. Phone calls on home phone or cell. Record these conversations if you can. Radio Shack has a wonderful device for this that is undetectable by the other person…and they have one for cell phones also, though you are not able to hide that device. Try to keep in mind at all times that you are doing what is best for your children. It’s time to be a little selfish and protect yourself and your children for the future.


You should not file for divorce (without including a claim for property distribution) as you will lose your rights to have the property distributed by the courts if you have not done so prior to the entry of a divorce judgment. If you truly want to proceed with a divorce without going after what you are entitled to ( I do not recommend this course of action) you may file for absolute divorce and use the forms and instructions for a “do- it your-self “ divorce which are usually provided at the court house.
With respect to establishing a formal custody arrangement, you can file an action for custody and proceed on your own, but again I would discourage this as the court and the differing rules in each county and the system can be very difficult to navigate on your own. You could check with the legal aid office in your county to try and get some assistance with your child custody claim.


Thank you both very much for your responses. One question though, Can I file for an absolute divorce and at the same time make a “claim for property distribution”? It would be great if I could get the divorce part done with, and deal with the property distribution and custody issues as seperate issues either thru court ordered mediation or hiring an attorney and going to court. I am trying to move on with my personal life, but right now anyone I might date would be living with the threat of AOA or CC.


It is not illegal to date during separation. Unless the stbx has reason to believe that the 3rd party was involved during the marriage there is no threat of Alienation of Affection.
Criminal Conversation is adultery which is the act of having sex with someone other than your legal spouse. Until the absolute divorce is granted, you are still legally married.
You can file for both. You must file ED (equitable distribution) prior to absolute divorce being granted, but it does not have to be settled for the divorce to be granted. As long as it is filed for you will not lose your right to claim. I have a friend who separated and divorced. Her ED was not settled finally until 3 years after the divorce was granted. She was remarried with a child by then…
As long as the marital assets and debts at the time of separation are recorded, the ED can happen at any time. It’s normally easier for it to happen at the beginning of the separation but that’s not always possible…
Good luck to you!


You may file for divorce at the same time you file for equitable distribution.