Can I represent myself in a family law court?

Owing to cuts in legal aid, many people now choose to represent themselves in court. The legal term for self-representation is ‘litigant in person.’ Yet, while it is perfectly possible to file your own court documents and argue your own case in a family law court, it is wise to be aware of the pitfalls.

Divorce is a complex legal process charged with intense emotions. Without understanding the details of your legal position, you can pursue a hopeless case or end up with a poor settlement. In both instances, you will end up paying or losing more money than you would hiring a specialist and experienced family lawyer. A good family lawyer will always act in your best interests, as well as offering you guidance, comfort and protection at a stressful time in your life.

Having said that, some people have no choice other than to represent themselves. In this case, we would offer the following advice:

  • A court room can feel intimidating, so preparation is key to feeling calm and in control.
  • A judge is usually faced with two versions of events, so think about how you can best support your version.
  • Prepare a Positioning Statement which clearly explains your situation, what you are requesting from the court and why you should be granted it.
  • Make a list of all you wish to say and practise reading it aloud at home.
  • Remember there are usually three elements to resolve – the divorce itself, the financial settlement and any children arrangements.
  • On the day of the hearing, allow plenty of travelling time and ensure you sign in on your arrival.
  • Look smart and tidy so the judge knows that you are taking the process seriously.
  • Stand up when the judge enters the court room and when it is your turn to speak.
  • Organise all your paperwork so you can easily find anything you may need, bring copies of anything to support your claims and have a pen and paper ready so you can take notes.
  • Speak slowly and calmly and allow the judge time to take notes.
  • Never address your ex-partner directly, make your points to the judge. This should help you to stay calm and avoid getting personal.
  • Do not interrupt if you disagree with anything, simply raise your hand and wait for the judge to allow you your say.
  • If you do not understand anything, ask for an explanation.
  • With the court’s permission you can bring along what is known as a MacKenzie Friend – these people are not legally trained but support those self-representing in court and can assist you in preparing for and attending court.

When separating or divorcing, we know how important it is to fully understand the law relating to your individual situation before you commit to any course of action. We offer an initial no obligation one-hour appointment for just £50 (Incl. VAT), so you can talk through the options specific to your personal circumstances with a qualified family lawyer. To book an appointment, please contact 01444 472700, email or complete the form below.

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