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 Respondent, 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 efile MUST use the sites. Because in Illinois, all legal documents must now be efiled.

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 efile 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 on YouTube:

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

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

More content is on its way. The goal is to offer the full suite of content instructing pro se litigants on what must be done in order to get their uncontested divorces through the Illinois courts. This “How To” content will be available through a monthly membership subscription. But the price will be far, far, far less than retaining a divorce attorney.

I’ve already had a mediator ask for this content because he often gets clients who have successfully gone through mediation, and now want to file for divorce. They have agreed on everything and now want to go through the courts without having to hire an attorney.

Based upon his feedback, and my own knowledge that some of my past clients would have used this content had it been available to them, I’m excited to dive in.