06 Jan Why representing yourself in court isn’t as difficult as you might think
You might have already decided you want to represent yourself in court, or perhaps you’re still mulling it over. Perhaps you’re worried you’ll mess it up and jeopardise your case, but you don’t have the money to pay a solicitor to act for you. It’s a big decision.
Whatever your situation, you need to know that representing yourself in court is possible and it isn’t as hard as you might think. There are lots of myths and misconceptions about the process, so that’s why I wanted to write this blog post to clear some of these up.
I want you to know that you can represent yourself successfully in court and do yourself proud – you just need good preparation and a little inside knowledge. So read on for some advice about representing yourself in court, and to see how this is something you can do with confidence.
I’ve stood in your shoes, wondering if it was a good idea to represent myself in court
In 2001 I separated from my wife and was offered a mere one hour per month to see my children, which needless to say I wasn’t happy with. But I couldn’t afford to hire a solicitor to act for me, so I decided to get myself clued up on the rules and represent myself in court.
Having achieved a good level of time with the children, I pushed things a little too far and made an application that on reflection was not my best idea. On the day of the final hearing, the judge put me in the witness box and asked me what I had prepared for my Examination in Chief. I had no idea what she meant, and it left me fumbling around awkwardly with no clue what to say. My case collapsed. I appealed, but realised I shouldn’t have done that either. I stood in the Court of Appeal in London crying and didn’t know what to do next. It felt like an awful time in my life.
Nevertheless, during the process I was able to gain much more contact with my sons, and I have a good relationship with them to this day. The experience made me want to help other people going through the same situation to ensure they are as prepared as they can be for representing themselves in court.
I started supporting people in court as a McKenzie Friend, passed my Law degree, and qualified as a barrister in 2010. I’ve helped many people represent themselves successfully in court and I’m passionate about empowering people like you to feel confident that you can do it with the right preparation. I now run training on various aspects of self-representing in court, as well as providing a number of personal services.
Is it a good idea to represent yourself in court?
You’re probably wondering this right now. You might be worried that the judge won’t listen to you or you’ll look like a fool, or even worse risk the outcome. But I want to reassure you that, as long as you prepare properly and learn the rules and processes, it’s definitely not a terrible idea. Any judge will understand why you’ve decided to self-represent and will appreciate dealing with someone who understands the process.
18, 000 thousand people represent themselves in court every month, mostly because they can’t afford a solicitor, so you can rest assured it’s pretty common. But to come out of that courtroom feeling proud of your conduct, you need to learn and follow some simple rules and do some solid preparation.
What preparation do I need to do?
There are a few things you need to think about and prepare before representing yourself in court, and you’ll need to learn what the court process will be. You have to remember that your situation and any evidence you have to support it are the most important elements in the case. Things like how you’ve behaved leading up to the hearing, and even how you act before and during the hearing, can also have an impact on the outcome.
There may be some forms you need to complete initially, and I recommend that you prepare a Position Statement which clearly and concisely sets out your situation and what you’re requesting from the court and why. If it is a children’s case you’ll also be contacted by CAFCASS (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service), and there might be some follow-up evidence you need to provide, such as obtaining a drugs or mental health report, although that would come after your first hearing.
The courts are usually faced with two conflicting versions of events, and you’ll need to think about what evidence you have to support your version, and decide when in the process it’s appropriate to present this information to the judge. Bear in mind the court process may consist of several hearings and you need to make sure you’re fully prepared for their different requirements, for example, Cross-Examination in Final Hearings and a Fact-Finding Hearing.
It might sound complicated, but it will make sense once you’ve done some groundwork.
Can I take someone with me to court?
Yes, you can, but you need to think carefully about who is the best person to support you when you’re representing yourself in court. It’s best not to take someone who’s emotionally invested in or too close to the situation; go with someone who can remain objective about the case, such as a McKenzie Friend who’s been trained in how to adequately support people self-representing in court.
How can I get help with representing myself in court?
You probably already know that hiring a solicitor or Direct Access Barrister should be your first port of call if you can afford it; but I’m guessing that cost is an issue and that’s why you’re thinking of representing yourself in court.
That’s why I wanted to offer services and training that will give you all the preparation you’ll need at a much lower cost than hiring a solicitor. It doesn’t need to cost you £1000s to obtain or even enforce a Child Arrangement or Financial Court Order, or to see a divorce through smoothly.
Simon Walland Family Law is all about giving you the confidence to stand up for yourself in court, saving you a lot of money in the process. I have a FREE lecture in which I talk about the court process in more detail and what you need to do to prepare if you’re self-representing in court. You can access it here in the training academy.
I’d love it if you could comment below and let me know if you found this helpful, or share this blog post with a friend who is perhaps going through the same thing and needs to hear this right now.
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