My Story: Derek PerryNSRLP
Derek Parry – a country pastor – never expected to find himself representing himself in family court., “As a result of my gullibility and stupidity, I got caught in a marriage scam”. After his very short marriage ended, Derek wanted an annulment and retained a lawyer. It seemed to him that the case was relatively simple – after just 5 days of married life, there were no children and no asset disputes. Derek was willing to assist his former spouse financially.
16 months later the case was still being dragged out in court. Derek could no longer afford to continue to pay his lawyer and was making costly interim spousal support payments. “I had mixed feelings (about representing himself) – with my background (Derek has four degrees and two professional certifications) the courts were not threatening to me. I have enough smarts to download forms, prepare a case – but of course I didn’t know the law or the procedures. I knew I was going to be naïve and make mistakes…I constantly wonder how others with less education and experience can manage.”
Derek felt that his lawyer failed to educate him about the reality of his situation and what would be involved in the divorce application, the legal process, the legal costs, and the likely outcomes (for example the expensive temporary order for support). He also points out that his lawyer was less than forthright about his experience in divorce cases. In summary, “the lawyers for both parties failed to engage the process in a timely manner, to their own financial benefit.”
In the course of representing himself, Derek felt disregarded by judicial officers, and was even berated in court for not having a lawyer. He considered unbundled legal services for trial preparation but at $500.00 an hour this was financially unrealistic for him.
Derek was struck by the extent to which the emotional needs of both parties clashed with the court’s adversarial and formalistic approach. “The courts are determined to avoid the emotional entanglements being experienced by the opposing parties, thereby failing to resolve the driving force behind much of the litigation, and the major hindrance to any resolution.” This makes the courts a poor forum for resolving family conflicts. “I think a key thing to recognize is that this is not, essentially, a legal struggle – it’s an emotional struggle.”
Derek continues to stay involved with the SRL Project as a member of our Speaker’s Bureau. He is now participating in a short film being made about SRL experiences (see Resource Development News).