When faced with a family law case, you have two options: you can hire a lawyer to act on your behalf, or you can choose to represent yourself. This decision is sometimes motivated by money, while in other instances it is because you are confident that your case is straightforward and that you have the evidence to support your case. If you choose to act as a self-represented party, there are several tips you can apply.
Do Your Research and Be Prepared
Make use of online resources to help you with your case. By researching online via detailed yet public-friendly resources such as Ontario Courts, the Ministry of the Attorney General web portal, and Community Legal Education Ontario, you can familiarize yourself with the law and family court, and they can also provide tips on how to prepare and file documents and how to act in court. Take the time to organize yourself and keep your paperwork in order. Create a timeline of events, compile important facts, and review the law applicable to your situation so you can amass a stronger argument or defence in support of your case.
Consult a Legal Coach for Advice
While online resources are a helpful starting point, they aren’t specific to your case. Legal coaching services like Court Coach LLP can offer independent legal advice and coaching tailored to your specific needs and circumstances. Working with a legal coach can introduce you to options and alternative approaches that perhaps weren’t clearly available to you as a self-represented party. Think of us and other legal coaches as knowledgeable friends who know the ins and outs of family law — we may be able to prevent from proceedings becoming drawn-out and expensive with effective solutions and recommendations. We can guide you through the legal issues and procedures to give your case the best chance of success.
There’s no denying that the more accurate evidence you present relevant to the case, the better things will go for you. As a self-represented party, it is crucial that you be attentive and meticulous about collecting and presenting any documentation or tangible proof in favour of your case. This can include everything from communication (text messages and emails), financial disclosure (paystubs and Notices of Assessment), valuations, receipts, signed documents and agreements, photographs, videos, collected statements, medical documentation, assessments, police reports, insurance papers, etc. Witnesses can also give evidence to prove facts about the case.
While it is always preferable to settle out of court, some matters may go to trial and you may need to testify in court. In doing so, you are presenting your version of events as true and accurate. Remember that when you testify, you can only speak from your perspective, meaning that you’re only allowed to speak of what you saw, heard, or did. Don’t expect to read notes as a witness, either: try to memorize your points and not overwhelm yourself. You can request permission from the judge to view your notes, but doing so requires an explanation as to why.
Self-representing in family court can be a stressful experience but you don’t have to do it alone. With these tips in mind, you’ll be better prepared to make a strong argument in your favour. Contact us at Court Coach today to learn how we can make sense of your case and provide guidance.