Representing Yourself in Family Court
Were you aware that you are not required to hire representation to represent your case in family court? You can choose to represent yourself if you wish. The Latin term for self-representation is “pro se,” which literally translates to “for oneself.” Though it is much cheaper to represent yourself, you should be aware that you won’t have an advantage or be given special treatment by the judge. The court will actually expect you to have an understanding of the legal rules and procedures- so make sure to do plenty of research before choosing to represent yourself.
First of all, you will need to make sure that you complete all of the necessary paperwork. The necessary paperwork will be dependent upon the legal action you’re seeking. The forms will vary according to the case you’re filing and the state you’re in. Visit the court clerk’s office for copies of the appropriate paperwork, or for him/her to point you in the right direction. They will be able to provide you information, but will not be able to offer you any legal advice at all.
Once you have all the paperwork and have it ready, you will file the paperwork with the family court clerk. You will also be required to pay the necessary filing fees at the time of the initial filing. You will also be expected to make sure that the documents get served to the other party so that they are notified of your intentions and have a chance to file their response. Look up the laws in your state regarding the appropriate methods of service of process.
Gather documentation you plan on bringing to the hearing. Make sure that all of your documentation actually supports your position. Also, take some time to learn court rules. Though you do not have legal representation, the judge will still expect you to know, understand, and follow the rules of the court. Your lack of knowledge will not be an excuse to behave improperly in court. You can get these rules from the court clerk. Take some time to read over and learn them before your court date.
Attend the hearing and be prepared to present your case to the judge. Since you do not have legal representation, the burden falls on your shoulders to prove your case. You must be prepared to present any documents to the judge that support your case. You should also be aware that you should never speak out of turn, and if the judge asks you a question, answer them. Finally, make sure that you always respectfully address the judge as “Your Honor.”
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