Common Pitfalls of Self-Representation in Family Court

There are some common pitfalls when you try to represent yourself at Family Court. Last week, I was retained by a woman who had filed an application and motion for custody on her own behalf. She had attempted to get an emergency custody Order without notice, which request was denied.

She hired me to take over, as she knew she would not succeed without assistance, and because it is really valuable to have legal representation at Court. I had to prepare an amended application, since she had neglected to include some of her claims in the application she prepared. I prepared a draft Order pursuant to the Judge’s endorsement, and I prepared a proper notice of motion and affidavit in support of her claim. Because the Respondent is of no fixed address, I also dealt proactively with the issue of serving documents on him.

Had I been retained in the first place, all of this would have been done correctly from the beginning. There was extra time and expense from my efforts to fix things up and to get the matter on track, and the client now has to lose a second day at work to attend Court again. It’s simply better to be represented at Court by a lawyer, and a lawyer’s services are not necessarily priced out of reach.

In this case, the payment of my fee is not an issue for the client. In other cases, I may work out a monthly payment plan with the client, as long as I also have an adequate retainer. A lawyer can also be retained on a limited or unbundled basis to review your documents and provide advice before you file them, or to assist a self represented litigant on the day of Court to help you get what you requested. The only financial commitment you need to make is the cost of an initial consultation with the lawyer to brain storm, and the relief you’ll experience from proper legal advice is well worth it.

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