How-To Tutorials for Unrepresented Litigants

I’m making a list, you’re checking it twice. We’re going to get you through the divorce process without having to hire an attorney. That’s nice!

I am a family law attorney who represents people in Chicago and the surrounding counties going through divorces and child custody lawsuits. When an attorney is hired by a Petitioner (or Plaintiff) or Respondent (or Defendant), that attorney normally only represents one side in the lawsuit. Not both sides.

Yet I’ve encountered many cases, especially in divorcing couples, where the party I represented WANTED me to work for her (or him) AND the opposing party. Maybe they thought hiring one lawyer means they pay one attorney to do everything, for everyone, in the lawsuit. 

This can be very problematic to say the least.

I had a pro se/unrepresented opposing party shout at me (while in the courthouse, no less) to “do all the f***in paperwork”. His wife, my client, supported this and she, too, ranted to the Judge that she only hired me to “do paperwork”. 

The legal divorce process is more than just “doing paperwork”, so it was obvious that both parties had no idea what an attorney does, or that some attorneys, MOST attorneys, will not represent both sides in a lawsuit.

I used this recent hailstorm as motivation for developing something to help me, opposing parties, other attorneys, etc.

First, let’s look at the problems:

Problem 1: The divorce process is not clear.

Going through a divorce and working with the Courts, judges, and clerks can be a daunting process. One person I represented asked where the checklist was for her to file for divorce by herself in Cook County, Illinois. There wasn’t one.

Problem 2: The e-filing process is not easy to understand.

Although e-filing has eliminated the need to travel to the courthouse and physically give someone legal documents, the e-filing process is not easy to understand.

We live in an age where we expect to be able to instantly learn and understand how to navigate around websites. Shopping online, watching videos, reading online news content… we expect to be able to quickly know how to use their sites. When a person is unable to understand how to navigate through a site, they will abandon it.

Yet people who e-file MUST use the sites. Because in Illinois, all legal documents must now be e-filed.

When you combine problem 1 and problem 2, you normally get frustrated and angry pro se litigants. Sure there are websites that contain pdf forms that these litigants can download, but there is a lack of good, clear educational content on:

A. How to understand what these forms mean

B. How to fill them out

c. How to e-file them

I was a professor who taught students software, and I now am an attorney who has helped many people get divorced in Illinois. So I made some videos for pro se litigants going through divorces in the Illinois courts.

The first few videos are free and are on YouTube:

1. What is an Appearance and How to Fill it Out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_eWIbsmYJI

2. How to e-file an Appearance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQHjmWNnWxM

The next set of videos is bundled into an online course. I’ve created a series of videos for someone who wants to file for divorce in Cook County, IL. The course is (creatively) entitled “How to File for Divorce in Cook County, IL” and is priced at $64.99. It’s located here. If you click that Udemy link, you can preview a lesson and see how I’ve broken the course down. I’ll walk you through how to fill out all the forms you need to start a divorce lawsuit in Cook County, IL. I’ll also provide you with the forms, and show you how to e-file them.

Finally, if you have legal questions and Google your legal question, you will get flooded with results. And so much of those results will not pertain to you AT ALL. Divorce and family law is different in every state. But Googling results does not necessarily tell you that. People get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information online. I’ve learned that lawyers often have really good blogs with helpful content, but our blogs do not end up on page 1 of a Google search. So if you’re reading this, certainly check out the rest of my blog. But head over to another Chicago divorce attorney’s blog that I think is super informative, https://rdklegal.com/blog/. Attorney Russell Knight churns out content quite frequently. And I’m all for boosting another attorney’s work that can help demystify the legal process.

Sara Kubik