If you’ve got a court hearing coming up, you’re probably feeling nervous. If you’re representing yourself, you might be worried that you’re going to mess it up and jeopardise your case. Or perhaps you’re feeling confident, but don’t know where to start.
I’ve been in your shoes, preparing for my court hearing, not knowing what to expect, or how to organise my case. So, I wanted to share my experience with you and tell you the four most important things I learnt on my journey.
In 2001, I separated from my wife, and, like most breakups, it wasn’t a happy time. However, my ex would only agree to one hour of contact time per month, so I had no choice but to make an application to the Family Court.
Making that application did trigger a response from my ex, and before the first hearing, she offered me either Saturday or Sunday every week with my boys. Whilst it was a start, it wasn’t enough time, and because it wasn’t court-ordered, it meant I had nothing to protect that time.
As a result, my ex continually swapped the days about at the last minute (it’s another common reason why people go to court).
Going to Court
When I went to court, I asked for not just a set weekend day, but overnight stays with my children on alternate weekends. This was opposed by my ex and, after several hearings, CAFCASS (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) supported my request.
I thought I had finally jumped through all the hoops, only for my ex to warn me that overnight stays would ruin our oldest son’s chances in the 11 plus exam. Feeling the burden of responsibility for my son’s education, I waited for 4-5 months before starting to consider it again.
This wasn’t straightforward however, and when I came back after 5 months, my ex responded to my request with a letter from her solicitor requesting that I not push for overnight stays. The letter recommended that I sign their letter, confirming I would give up on the idea, telling me that the Family Court would never agree to it now.
I didn’t sign and three weeks later, we had another hearing.
Returing to Court
Of course, at the hearing, my ex knew that the court would uphold the previous decision and, contrary to the letter, agreed that we just needed to work out the dates for my overnight stays. Things were still difficult though, with my oldest initially not wanting to stay with me because he knew his mother didn’t like it. All in all, my ex-wife was hostile to contact until both boys had left home.
That is a ‘potted history’ of my court case. There was a lot more back and forth of course. A lot of lows, upset, frustration, and worry.
Can You Go to Court Without a Solicitor and Win Your Case?
Throughout the whole process, I represented myself in court without a solicitor. My ex-wife had legal aid due to being unemployed. It felt unfair and it wasn’t until much later that I realised that the system is the way it is however much you complain or get angry about it.
The good news is that you can successfully represent yourself in court as long as you’re willing to put in a bit of preparation and learn the processes and procedures with some insider advice from someone like me.
So, here is what I believe everyone going to court needs to focus on most.
My 4 Key Takeaways to Make Representing Yourself in Court a Success
1. YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS AND WHAT THE JUDGE NEEDS TO MAKE A DECISION
You must follow processes and procedures in court hearings, and they can be hard to navigate when you’re representing yourself in court. If you can’t afford a solicitor to help you, you still need to know about the rules and how things work. You can look online but you need that insider experience.
2. ACCEPT THAT THE SYSTEM IS WHAT IT IS
The system is slow. It’s frustrating. It can be hard to understand. If you can’t afford the guidance of a solicitor or barrister, you may think things are unfair and unjust, but unfortunately, nothing will change the way court hearings proceed, no matter what your position.
This is the harsh truth, and you’re better off putting your energy into learning how the system works so you can do your best. You can do this by doing an online course on representing yourself in court. As they say, knowledge is power.
3. WRITE A GOOD POSITION STATEMENT
A well-written Position Statement will help you when you’re representing yourself in court by giving the judge the important
information they need to make a decision. Your Position Statement is your voice in the courtroom, and you’ll increase the chances of a decision going your way by making sure your Position Statement is clear and well-structured.
4. PARENTAL ALIENATION IS COMMON BUT THERE ARE WAYS YOU CAN DEAL WITH IT
Parental alienation is when one parent manipulates a child into acting in a hostile way to the other parent following a divorce or separation. This is something many parents experience. CAFCASS will likely be involved in assessing your situation and your children’s home environment, and they will work to identify any instances of parental alienation before making a recommendation to the court.
It’s important to remember that no matter what has happened between parents, it isn’t acceptable to manipulate a child. If you’re the parent being isolated, make sure you remind your partner of this. If you find that this is happening frequently, try to gather evidence to back up any claims you make. There are other things you can do to try and deal with parental alienation, which I talk about in this blog post.
There are lots of other things I learned from representing myself in court, so if you need more support with representing yourself in court with confidence, you might want to check out my training courses or book a consultation with me so we can discuss your case.
And why not sign up to my mailing list to be the first to hear about new blog posts, training and updates?
You can sign up here: