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Author: XO_stepdad Subject: Trying to represent yourself in court?

Posts: 5
Registered: 09-25-2009

posted on 10-01-2009 at 09:39 Reply With Quote Report Post to Moderator
Trying to represent yourself in court?

In family court it can be difficult to represent yourself but if you do it correctly you actually can get pretty decent results on top of saving a lot of money in attorney fees. It is however, highly recommended that if your case is more complicated than simply an uncontested divorce that you do hire an attorney to represent you. Most people that represent themselves seem to have the mentality that only they will be able to portray to a judge the exact situation. If this is your situation I really suggest you try very hard to evaluate your situation extensively and make sure you are positive that representing yourself is really what is best for you with the results that you are expecting in the case.

First and foremost do as much research as possible on your exact situation. Because of the fact that a court hearing can be difficult to understand and in turn can either make or break your situation its imperative that you become well informed on what to expect. I would recommend that you visit a website that covers the legal stipulations on divorce in your particular state as all state divorce laws are different. Search for articles written for non-lawyers about divorce and other family law topics. Make sure to make a list of all of the important issues you will face in your particular situation and write down any questions about the legal process that you may not understand. If for example you have a question about child support, write down questions involving how child support is calculated in your particular state and what the stipulations are of that particular issue. I would try and outline briefly your case and involve the outcome you are looking for. Try to keep your outline minimal and realistic.

One of the most important things you need to have in family court is proof. Documentation is key in proving your case although sometimes a verbal testimony from a third party can also help you. Bringing in proof of income and expenses like tax return information, receipts of purchases made and so on will drastically help your case. Its also important to figure out through this documentation what you really are trying to prove in the first place. If you are trying to get reduced child support obligations you want to make sure to show documentation of increased expenses based off of your sole income.

Go to your local courthouse and seek consultation with a clerk to figure out what paperwork needs to be filled out as well as the different ways you can serve your spouse based off of the particular situation you are in. When you reach your first court date make sure you dress business casual or respectful at least. Basically the same attire you would wear when going to church, it’s not necessary to go overboard. Don’t wear a suit and tie but don’t go in with jeans and a tank top either, find a business casual medium. Usually on your first court date you will be asked if you want to represent yourself or if you would like the court to be adjourned so that you can have a lawyer represent you. Obviously with this article in mind you most likely will be representing yourself but keep in mind that some states have lawyers who do cheap or free representation if your finances are below a certain mark. With that being said its important that you find that out before deciding to represent yourself instead of getting a lawyer. If you decide to represent yourself when asked the proceeding should then continue.

If you are the plaintiff in the case then you are the one filing for divorce, if you are the defendant then you are the one who has been served with the divorce paperwork. The plaintiff usually starts the hearing with their case. Make sure never to speak out of turn and keep your outline as well as notes handy. Bring a pen and piece of paper so that you can interject when it is your turn to speak on any and all issues that have been brought up by the plaintiff or vice versa.

When talking to the judge be respectful and address him or her as “Your Honor”. Don’t use slang terms, only speak to the judge and try to be straight forward and to the point. Try and avoid talking like a lawyer, be yourself. This isn’t an episode of “Law and Order” and it will be easy for you to get emotional. NEVER talk out of turn, talk to your spouse (plaintiff/defendant), or vent about the situation. Obviously it is a painful experience to get divorced but try to get a hold of your emotions and explain your case as “matter of fact” as possible. Make sure also to be very responsive to questions being asked by the judge. If you don’t understand something that is being asked make sure to tell the judge that you don’t understand the question. It is very important to remember that you are representing yourself so you need to be very clear headed about the whole situation if you expect to get anywhere.

Most of the time it will be advised to settle the issue on your own with the help of a mediator. If mediation is suggested it is strongly advised that you at least consider it unless there is a domestic violence dispute or something that can’t be solved simply by a mediator and its absolutely necessary for the law to get involved in the details. If your case involves child support you most likely will not go to a mediator because the resolution of child support is based mainly off of numbers. In a custody battle you might want to seek mediation however if you can’t come to any kind of conclusion with your adversary. A law clerk is another person who will be able to help mediate the situation and get it resolved before having to bring your case in front of a judge.

The judge will issue you a written decision if your case goes to trial but if you make a settlement you will most likely have to draft out your own document of a settlement yourself. Usually this form of a written settlement is a set of stipulations, which is basically what you and your ex have agreed upon to which you would draft out and sign. Make sure you leave the trial with a court order, sometimes the judge will sign your written agreement or you will simply be provided with order forms provided by the court that you can fill out on your own. Make sure that when you receive a copy of the agreement you have made it addresses all of the issues that you resolved in the agreement. If for some reason your legal document of agreement is missing anything that was supposed to be included you contact your ex or your ex’s attorney, or contact the court’s clerk to discuss what you should do to resolve the issue.

This is basically all of the information I gathered on representing yourself instead of getting a lawyer when I went through my own divorce. With that being said this is by no means legal advice it’s just what I know worked for me. If I appear to be wrong about any of this feel free to point it out but he purpose of this is to offer up some advice that I have put into action on my own.
View User's Profile E-Mail User View All Replies By Justdivorced1 (only searches replies by default, for topics please run another search) U2U Member

Posts: 8
Registered: 10-01-2009

posted on 10-01-2009 at 11:28 Reply With Quote Report Post to Moderator

I like this advice a lot and agree with it whole heartedly! There are a lot of stipulations involved in representing yourself in court but if you follow that basic outline then you should do well. I personally had a lawyer when I got a divorce but I did a bunch of research on the issue beforehand and everything that you recommend here is in a nutshell what I have read through hours of research. Thats really cool that you decided to break it down for people.
View User's Profile E-Mail User View All Replies By curlygurly017 (only searches replies by default, for topics please run another search) U2U Member

Posts: 5
Registered: 07-27-2010

posted on 07-29-2010 at 09:07 Reply With Quote Report Post to Moderator

I feel sorry about you. I have a rude experience about this feelings with my wife.
View User's Profile E-Mail User View All Replies By perthelizabeth (only searches replies by default, for topics please run another search) U2U Member

Posts: 39
Registered: 01-08-2010

posted on 08-05-2010 at 09:46 Reply With Quote Report Post to Moderator
There are risks....

There are definitely some risks you take when you decide to represent yourself in a divorce. As long as you do your research and prepare yourself properly you should be fine, but you definitely don't want to overlook important aspects of the divorce that could have serious repercussions later.
View User's Profile E-Mail User View All Replies By Link_29 (only searches replies by default, for topics please run another search) U2U Member

Posts: 28
Registered: 01-06-2010

posted on 10-11-2010 at 10:28 Reply With Quote Report Post to Moderator
This is your life...

I cringe when I hear of men going into divorce on their own, without a lawyer guiding them through the process. When you go through a divorce, there is no going back. You need to know that this is going to affect your life in major ways, and be even more aware of this if you are going through a particularly angry, frustrating, and/or malicious divorce.

It can definitely be risky to go it alone. Once you have a lawyer guiding you, you will realize how much you would have overlooked or misunderstood. It can affect your finances, the time you get with your kids, the way the property is divided, etc. It will affect your whole life, so take it seriously!

View User's Profile E-Mail User View All Replies By XO_stepdad (only searches replies by default, for topics please run another search) U2U Member
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