Should you consider representing yourself in court?
You have the right to represent yourself in court without a legal professional. Someone who represents themselves in court is known as a ‘litigant in person’.
You might consider representing yourself in court because you would rather speak to the judge yourself or because you cannot afford legal fees. However, it is best to seek legal advice if you can, as family law proceedings can become complicated. If the other party has legal representation, you might be concerned that they have an advantage over you.
If you are worried about legal costs, it is worth finding out whether you are eligible for legal aid. As well as covering representation in court, legal aid can cover the cost of legal advice and family mediation.
Another way to keep legal costs down is to instruct a solicitor to carry out some of the work on your case but complete other parts yourself. Our family lawyers can advise you on a specific aspect of your case, draft a particular document on your behalf, or represent you in court. We will always be clear about what our service includes to help you organise your finances.
These are some benefits of instructing a solicitor:
- If your case involves children, you are likely to be contacted by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS). CAFCASS will carry out a detailed assessment of your family, and the judge will make their decision largely based on this report. To increase the chance of a positive outcome, we strongly recommend that you seek legal advice.
- The evidence to support your case needs to be strong enough to stand up to scrutiny in court. A solicitor will make sure you have hard evidence to back up your claims.
- Legal procedures can be complicated. Any misunderstandings or errors can make the process longer and more costly. An experienced family solicitor will ensure the process runs as smoothly and quickly as possible.
- Laws are always changing. Your solicitor will be fully up-to-date with family law. They will prepare and present your case in accordance with relevant changes.
Most importantly, you will have access to professional advice from an experienced solicitor whenever you need it.
Do you need a solicitor or a barrister?
The main difference between a solicitor and a barrister is that a barrister only usually sees clients in court.
When you need advice about a family law matter, your first point of contact is a solicitor. A family law solicitor will prepare your case and guide you through the legal process. A solicitor will often represent you in court, but sometimes they will refer your case to a barrister. The barrister will then act as your mouthpiece by presenting your case in court.
Our family solicitors at Davisons usually represent our clients in court hearings. This means you have a single point of contact for the duration of your case. As your solicitor will have got to know you and handled your case from the beginning, they will be a strong advocate for you.
Sometimes we do refer cases to barristers. For example, in child proceedings, where a final hearing is a contested hearing, a barrister has the specialist skills to cross-examine a witness and present a persuasive case to the judge or a complex financial case.