The cold hard truth is that if you’re going to court alone and the other side has a lawyer, you’re at a disadvantage. Statistics show that the odds are stacked against you and the side with an attorney has a better chance of winning. What can you do to improve your chances and even up the odds? The best way to improve your chances in court is to prepare.
First: learn the that applies to your fact pattern;
Second: gather all the evidence that you need to support your argument well in advance; and
Third: organize what your going to say to make a good impression. In this article, we’ll focus on learning the relevant law before you prepare your evidence and argument.
Your first place to look for help is the courthouse itself. Many courts have people (either paid or volunteer), whose job it is to provide free information to people who don’t have lawyers. They’ll help you with what papers to file, when you must file, how many copies, and where to send them.
So first, check with the court clerk’s office. Almost every county in the state and country has this information online. You can find it by typing in “family court,” your state, and county. One you get to the website, look for anything that says, “self-help,” “pro-se help, or “self-representation.” The website will direct you to places like: “desk,” “hotline,” “center,” “service,” “office,” or any similar place. Save, bookmark, download, link and record the contact information. You will ask them for what you need to file and how to comply with procedure.
You can also ask for a referral to any other places, resources, information, and independent services such as volunteers, non-profits, law schools, bar associations, or other resources.
Second: before you call, look for forms, instruction sheets, rules, and other information on the Court website that can help you. There should be a lot of information on the website about what the judges and hearing officers expect. It may also provide links to places where you can get more help and information.
In addition to the Court web site, you can find helpful information on other legal sites. A helpful site is lawhelp.org, a website run by a non-profit organization to help you get free information. Go to that site and click on your state. This website indexes and organizes a lot of the information you need. Investigate, read, and review what’s online before you call any self-help desk. That way, when you call, you can ask for clarification about what you read and didn’t understand rather than have the helpers direct you to documents that you could have found on your own.
The only people who can give legal advice are attorneys. All people at the courthouse can only provide general information, not strategy. For that type of help, you need a lawyer.
If you need legal representation, click the “Request Consultation” button for a free case evaluation.