This will be a short post. I hear from people all the time who have gotten served with papers and went to a Temporary Hearing without an attorney.
Why without an attorney? It usually is a lack of money, short notice or not knowing who to contact.
What can happen? You can be kicked out of the house. You may lose custody even if you have been the primary or sole care provider for the children. You may not get the child support or spousal support you need. You may get stuck paying a lot of bills. You may have restrictions put on you relating to the children or where you live or what you get to use while the divorce is pending. And many other bad things can happen.
Why does that happen? Because you don't have someone to speak for you who knows the law, the court rules and the procedures. Judges try to be fair and helpful to everyone, but they have very little time for each case on their docket and there's no time to explain everything to you. Also, Judges have to be impartial, so they can't do things for you.
Can you get the problems changed later? Maybe, maybe not. The sooner you act, the better.
What can you do? You really need to hire an attorney. Even if your spouse says he/she wants to work everything out, you need an attorney. You should hire an attorney before the first hearing. If you don't have time, ask the Judge for more time. They will often give you a week or so to hire an attorney. You should take the process seriously because there are serious consequences. This is not a good time to do it yourself.
What if you can't afford an attorney? The stakes are so high, you need to find a way. Courts generally won't appoint an attorney for you. You should borrow money from friends, relatives, a bank or wherever else you can think of. You can usually put attorney's fees on a credit card. This is so important, you need to find a way to pay for an attorney so you really don't lose out.
When you are going to court, please don't try to do it without an attorney!