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  • Writer's pictureAmy Dixon

Can you really represent yourself in the family court?

Updated: Feb 27

The family court is a daunting place, where it's pretty much always your first rodeo. It's no illusion that that courts much rather you to be represented because in the main, this makes their life much easier.

Is there any reason you need legal representation? No.

You can apply to the family court as a litigant in person (LIT), you can write your own letters, statements and complete the court forms yourself and you can represent yourself in the court. Sometimes in the family court, dare I say it, you may be better off.

Self representing in the family court

It's important to know, it's not like you will have seen on the TV, it's not always fair, the judges don't always listen and you may feel unheard and unseen unless you are super prepared.

Understanding the difference between 'noise' and relevant information to a judge is paramount.

The first thing to know is that each hearing is limited to a time - from 30 minutes to a full day, this is known as a time estimate, and will inhibit the capacity for each hearing. The bounds of what will be decided at each hearing is limited by the hearing type also.

An FDA for example (First Directions Appointment) is a short hearing where the judge will simply decide what directions are required to ensure a final hearing is possible and they have all the information they need to make a decision at a future hearing. DRA (Dispute Resolution Appointment) to narrow as many issues as possible, this means you will be expected to negotiate at this type of hearing.

Every judge has their own style and you may see several different judges throughout the course of your hearings. This can really affect the decisions made and the final outcome so if you find a good judge along the way you can ask them to 'reserve' the matter to themselves.

There is a lot to learn and it is no mean feat to go alone but sometimes it's necessary. Here's my top tips:

Find good guidance; you can employ a law firm to give you advice only or find a Professional McKenzie Friend who is generally a retired solicitor or an experienced person that guides and assists you as a LIT.

Apply to the court for a first hearing via forms alike C100 (child arrangements) or Form A (notice of financial remedy), all forms are available on the Gov website and generally, if you google your issue, the gov website will suggest the correct form.

After completing the form, you simply email it to the court closest to you - which again, is searchable on the gov site. From there on the court will write and guide you from there.

You will need to be able to speak under stress; I have experienced people who cannot speak when stressed, if this is you, speak to law firms to see how they can help you as a LIT and don't forget you can enlist the help of a direct access barrister to speak for you at the hearing by contacting chambers local to the court.

Reduce your information; the judge will look at a few things. What is the status quo. Is there a welfare issue. What is in everyone's best interests. How to resolve the issues in law. It's absolutely paramount that you don't just make complaints to the court but you actively make suggestions to resolve matters. The judge would like you to have thought the problem through and provided suggestions of a workable outcome, not just thrown a heap of problems at their door.

Finally; Don't doubt yourself. If the issue is important to you, you will be able to muddle your way through. Pay for advice from experts as and when you need it and don't be shy to ask the obvious questions. Recognise the difference of information gathered from well informed people and those who are scorned from the courts themselves.

Amy Dixon, McKenzie Friend


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