So you’ve decided not to use a divorce attorney and you’re go to represent yourself pro se in court, but now what? Where do you find the paperwork you need? Isn’t everything available online for free? But how do you find it? These are all excellent questions that you WILL need to know the answers to, ASAP!
When many fathers first decide that they are going to go it alone in court think that they can find all the info they need online and just “wing it”. While it is true that most document and forms you need are available online for free at court and county websites, that does not mean all you have to do is fill things out and turn them in. While these forms can often seem as if they are straight forward and easy to fill out, there are very specific pieces of information that needs to be entered in each section. You need to know what you need to write in each section, and how to word it in such a way that will force the court to take you seriously as a father representing himself in court. It is also true that court clerks do have some knowledge as to what goes where in these forms, however these people are usually untrained and help upwards of hundreds of people a day and may not have the patience to help you when you most need it.
Remember, most judges and almost all other lawyers do not like to see men representing themselves in the courtroom because there is a rightfully earned stigma that people who are pro se in the courtroom have no idea what they are doing. And most of the time, the judges and lawyers are right, as most men don’t bother to obtain the information they need to be successful in court, and end up not only wasting their time, but also the time of the courts. This can be a huge detractor to your case in the future, as you can inadvertently burn bridges without even realizing it with your lack of knowledge.
So what can you do? Do research, make sure that your paperwork is filled out correctly and filed on time, and make sure that you act professionally. It would also be a good idea to go and observe a courtroom handling family law cases so you can get a feel for the jargon involved and how people behave within the courtroom. Most of all, remember that some action in your case is better than no action at all!