Depending on your circumstances, it may make financial and logistical sense to represent yourself in family law matters like a divorce or custody hearing or a probate case when a loved one dies. Though it can be intimidating to navigate the legal system, you don’t have to do it alone: There are many resources, including experienced legal coaches, that can help guide you through your case.
If you’re planning to represent yourself in a Virginia family law or probate matter, follow these tips:
1. Get the logistics right
Preparation is key when it comes to representing yourself. As the sole representative of your case, you will be responsible for knowing where your case will be held, how to dress professionally and present yourself the day of, and how to correctly present your evidence and argument in court. As soon as you know the date, time, and location of your case, head to the courthouse in advance to make sure you can find the courtroom easily. Plan for travel time and factor in any unexpected issues to avoid showing up late, as this can lead to a dismissed case.
2. Understand the risks
Representing yourself without any kind of legal guidance can lead to poor outcomes. If you purchase forms that are not specific to Virginia’s legal requirements, file those forms at the wrong time and in the wrong order, do not properly serve the right documents to the opposing party, etc., you will end up experiencing many delays and costs to re-file things properly and fix your mistakes.
Don’t assume that the Court has pre-printed forms for your type of legal matter, as it’s very common in Virginia for there to be no forms available for your particular type of legal matters. Attorneys are trained to draft their own pleadings in those instances, so if you represent yourself, you will have to draft your own.
Even if you draft and file all your forms correctly from the start, the court may ultimately rule in favor of the other party if you haven’t presented your case in the strongest way — and/or you may lose more money than you would have spent on legal assistance.
Consulting with a legal professional can help you avoid these issues and feel more confident about handling your own case in court. My Legal Case Coach has created forms packets consistent which contain pre-drafted pleadings for several types of family, probate, and other legal matters, along with detailed instructions and one free hour of case coaching with a licensed Virginia attorney (included with any forms packet purchased).
3. Know your case well
When representing yourself in court, conduct your research and understand the laws, regulations, and technicalities incorporated into your case — including how your argument will make sense to the court. Those representing themselves in Virginia may be able to find some useful legal resources in their local Virginia county or city, including legal forms and classes that can help you better understand the details of your case.
4. Practice what you will say to the court
Not every DIY legal case requires a court appearance. However, if your case does, take the time to write out your statement(s) and practice it so you feel prepared to present it to a judge with confidence and professionalism. You can also practice in a mirror, on a video recording, or in front of family members, friends, or a legal coach.
5. Hire a legal coach to help you prepare
Hiring a legal coach is an effective way to help you prepare your case and ensure you have the correct legal documents, witnesses, and arguments as you get ready for your day in court. My Legal Case Coach (MLCC) can help Virginia residents with multiple types of cases involving self-representation, including:
- An uncontested divorce (with or without children).
- Martial settlement agreements for a divorce.
- Custody and visitation.
- Spousal and/or child support.
- Prenuptial and post-nuptial agreements.
- Legal name change either related or not related to a divorce.
- Stepparent adoption.
- Legal guardianship for minor children.
- Legal guardianship/conservatorship for incapacitated and special needs adults.
- Probate matters.
When you purchase a legal case form packet from MLCC, you’ll not only receive an easy-to-use, templatized set of customized court documents, but you’ll also get one (1) free hour of 1:1 virtual legal coaching from an experienced Virginia attorney. We also offer prepaid blocks of ongoing coaching services for as low as $100 per hour.
Schedule your 15-minute consultation to discuss your upcoming court case and learn how MLCC can help.