Representing Yourself in Court and Why It Might Be a Bad Idea

Most attorneys will tell you that handling your case in pro per (or, on your own behalf), is a bad idea, at least in most situations. Small civil-court proceedings have indeed been held with both sides representing themselves in front of a judge. However, when going to court for a divorce and family law case, there are many disadvantages to representing yourself.

An Unfortunate Case Example of Self-Representation

For example, take a case that happened in 2016. Two parents were in court because they were having personal issues. The father wanted custody, and the mother wanted a restraining order. While the father was represented by an attorney, the mother decided to represent herself. She was not a lawyer, and she didn’t have the training necessary to understand the documents, language, and procedures of the average family law court. She eventually lost the case.

The mother accused the judge of refusing to give her a fair hearing. However, the judge found that, lawfully, a court was “under no obligation to ‘level the playing field’ by assisting [the] Mother.” While courts must recognize that self-representing individuals do not have the same degree of knowledge as a fully trained attorney, they are only responsible for ensuring the other party doesn’t present misinformation about how or what to do. For example, if the father’s lawyer falsely told the mother she could use her sister’s written statement, the court could intervene on the mother’s behalf. However, since the mother decided to represent herself, it was her responsibility to research how to behave in court in order to best present her case.

A person who wants to represent himself or herself in court may be brilliant, but without extensive information on how legal proceedings work, it will still be able to win a case in court. The mother in the above example eventually requested a lawyer during the trial but was denied on the grounds that she should have asked for an attorney before the case began.

Why Hire an Attorney to Handle Your Family Law Case?

This woman lost custody of her children because she was unprepared. Attorneys are professionals, just like doctors and engineers. Their years of training have prepared them with the knowledge of hundreds of legal terms, courtroom procedures, standards of conduct, and thousands of past case results that could be used to defend or prosecute someone. While representing yourself might save you money, it could also backfire. Family court cases are not something to take lightly. If the wellbeing of your children is on the line, make sure you have an experienced attorney on your side. Our lawyers are willing and ready to put our experience and education to work for you.

Contact us to tell us about your situation.

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