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Tips For Self Represented Litigants


I think it’s fair to say, self reps are every family lawyer’s worst nightmare.That husband or wife (or applicant or respondent or mother or father) who refuse to get a lawyer. Maybe it’s because they don’t want one, they think they can do it better. Maybe it is because they fall between that (rather large) gap of being eligible for legal aid and being able to afford a lawyer. Or maybe they had a lawyer and lost faith in them or ran out of money.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a matter involving a ‘self rep’ where I haven’t wished, and wished hard, that they get a lawyer. It generally results in increased fees for your client due to you having to spend time dealing with the ‘self rep’ who either doesn’t understand or refuses to comply with the rules, bombards you with unnecessary correspondence and refuses to mediate outside of court.

The most frustrating thing I find is that these ‘self reps’ could do so much better. I get it, spending money on lawyers is the last thing anyone wants to do and I genuinely understand that sometimes you simply don’t have a choice. But if you find yourself in that position, do yourself a favour and actually put some effort in!

Here are my top tips for self-represented litigants:

  • Play by the rules. Don’t ignore requirements to file documents (on time). The judge might feel sorry for you the first time, but at the end of the day all you are doing is delaying the inevitable, and causing further delay and frustration to everyone involved.
  • Do some research and find out what is relevant. There is nothing more frustrating than sitting in the back of a court full of lawyers and parties who are waiting to be heard on a busy list day, listening to a self-represented party rant and rave to the Judge about matters that have no bearing on the outcome of the dispute. If you need to get those issues off your chest, go to a counsellor or a friend and vent before you go to court.
  • Be respectful. Yes, I know, lawyers are the worst people on the planet (until you need us). But we are human too. There is no need to name call or yell or generally treat us with disdain, it hurts our feelings.
  • Make a genuine effort to settle and move on. While the litigation may not be ‘costing you’ financially in legal fees, consider the emotional and psychological cost, not to mention the time you are wasting and will never get back. Make a commercial decision (in property matters) and focus on your children and try and reach an agreement you can live with.

Image Credit – Dmpank © 123RF.com

Written by Amelia Trotman on April 30, 2018

Experienced in all aspects of Family Law, Amelia has a particular interest in complex parenting and property matters, international relocation matters and surrogacy. Amelia's down to earth approach and empathetic nature allows her to develop trusting relationships with clients and work towards achieving the best possible outcomes. View Amelia's profile


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