Thinking About Self-Representation in Court?

Self-Representation in Court

Most people understand that the process of going to court can be incredibly expensive. It can place families under a significant amount of stress and they might be wondering if they can make ends meet while their court case is pending. To save money, some people will try to represent themselves in court. They think that by avoiding the process of hiring an attorney that they can save money and, potentially, time as well. Unfortunately, there are problems that come with representing oneself in court. There are a few issues that come with self-representation that people should keep in mind.

The Mistakes

People should understand that lawyers have gone through an extensive amount of training to be able to handle these types of problems quickly and efficiently. They have attended law school and spend the majority of their days working with issues involving the legal system. Attorneys therefore know what to look for in a court case and can identify and resolve issues quickly and efficiently. As an average person without this training, individuals are prone to making mistakes that could be time-consuming. Then, after their case is over, they could end up paying additional money they did not anticipate to try and fix these problems. Examples of common mistakes that people make include:

Child Support Disclosures: Child support issues are some of the most common reasons that people go to court. When this amount is calculated, it is important for both parents to disclose their monthly income to the court. If the amount is not correct or the parents need to alter the amount that they disclosed, this paperwork could be rejected by the court. Sometimes, parents do not realize that their paperwork was rejected. This leaves them sitting in purgatory, wondering where their paperwork went. This can waste a lot of time. During that time, the majority time-sharing parent is going without child support that they could be receiving from the other parent if the paperwork had been completed correctly.

Not Reviewing All Filed Documents: An attorney often receives a notification any time a document is filed regarding one of their cases. Many times, individuals representing themselves do not receive these notifications. They might not realize that something has been filed regarding one of their cases that needs to be reviewed. The court system has moved to electronic filings. An unrepresented party may not have access to or now how to navigate the electronic system to file and/or review documents related to their case. Failure to review a document that might be pertinent to a case can be costly.

Judges: Without an experience attorney by their side, an unrepresented party will not know how to present information and evidence to a judge. Since judges are not permitted to give legal advice to self-represented litigants, parties may be wasting the court’s time by filing meritless motions and scheduling hearings that are not appropriate or effective. Parties would make a greater use of the judge’s time and efforts by working with an attorney who can counsel the party with respect to his or her case and file the necessary and appropriate motions to be heard by the court.

Emotions: Many people do not realize the many cogs and gears that have to turn with the legal system. They can get frustrated with how long this process lasts. Sometimes, people lose their temper with the judge. It is important to remain calm and realize that getting angry at the person making the decision is not going to be helpful. Attorneys understand this process and are more likely to remain calm in the face of adverse circumstances.

These are only a couple of the many different mistakes that people often make while trying to represent themselves in court. It is important to meet with an experienced attorney to discuss any court case before making a decision regarding representation. The guidance and advice an experience attorney can bestow on a client can be invaluable in their court case and case save them a significant amount of money in the long run.

Article updated September 15, 2020.

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