Everyone is familiar with the saying that a man representing himself in court has a fool for a client. I am here to tell you not to believe it! It doesn’t have to be true. As a young lawyer, I never bought into it. The legal profession, like all other professions, has successfully convinced government that only their licensed members have the skills required to charge for so called “legal” services. The privileged members of the professions are particularly strong believers and promoters in their special status. The sentiment contained in the saying applies to some professions, such as medicine, much more than law. You wouldn’t want to perform your own heart surgery but you sure can do a good job –perhaps the best – speaking your heart on behalf of your own children. There is no one better at any fee.
Fathers and mothers are competently representing themselves in family court at record numbers. Courts are moving quickly ( for a court!) to accommodate this phenomenon.
“Foolishness” is representing yourself without first doing basic beginners homework in two areas.
Obviously, a basic understanding on the law and procedure can only help. It is not all that difficult. The basic rules are simple and logical.
The second area is just as important if not more so: you have to undertake a journey of self-discovery. You have a unique opportunity to see how you got to this point in your life, and what changes you would like to make going forward. What parts of your earlier dreams did you feel you had to discard that you now would like to recapture? This means learning how to overcome the battery of negative emotions that come with hostile separations. It will give you the peace of mind required to concentrate on the court procedures, to present to a judge as a mentally healthy father, and most importantly to be a better parent to your child,and ultimately to be a fundamentally happier person. This part – learning to control and moderate your destructive emotions – is a hell of a lot harder than learning the law and the rules of court. Not many try. Fewer stick with it. It is damned hard work. You and your children deserve nothing less than your very best ever effort.
I fully appreciate how easy it is for me to tell you to walk into the court room, introduce yourself, and convince the judge why your ideas are best for your child . I know that from your perspective it is obviously a very formidable and daunting task. Your reluctance and trepidation are completely understandable. Panic might be a better description of how you feel. However, you must know that thousands of fathers in situations just like yours – many worse – have represented themselves and done well. Any internet search of reported family law decisions will show you how many cases there are where one or both parents are without lawyers.
If you are so overcome with reluctance that you are considering giving up the fight, there is a quick and simple remedy: read some self-help custody books and make a point of sitting in on some family court trials. Once you understand the ground rules, strip away the unfamiliar façade of the court room, and see it as a stage on which the various actors all have their parts, it should set your mind more at ease.