When getting entangled with the law, a person is bound to encounter complex and complicated processes and procedures. Legal matters can get very confusing and overwhelming for pro se parties, or those who go through legal proceedings without representation from a lawyer.
While legal advice is not required, it is highly recommended to ensure that a person’s rights are protected and they get the best results in their case. If a person chooses to go to court and move forward with their case without legal assistance, here are some general tips on how to survive a court hearing pro se:
- Read the case management or pre-hearing order.
As a pro se party, staying aware and informed is a valuable trait to have in a court proceeding. Those undergoing a court hearing without legal representation need to make sure they read and understand all the procedures and what the court expects from them.
Aside from reading the provided materials, i.e. the pre-hearing order or case management order, it will also be helpful for a pro se party to do their research about the laws involved in their case, as well as the idiosyncrasies of their particular county so that they know what the judges are like in the courtroom. This information can be retrieved by asking the clerk of court or court facilitator.
- Learn the rules of evidence.
Knowledge is power in a pro se case. The more a party knows about the law and their rights, the better they can navigate the case without legal assistance. Breezing through the rules of evidence can give a pro se party a handle on the general rules and be able to keep track of them.
- Prepare for the presentation of evidence.
Proper preparation and timing are crucial when it comes to court hearings. A pro se party must make sure that they keep track of everything they need in court and do so well in advance. They should prepare their presentation of evidence to be as brief as possible. To help pro se parties prepare their evidence, they need to:
- Figure out their witnesses and what information they have to offer that’s useful.
- Prepare their exhibits and determine whether or not they are admissible
- Form their position statement or argument
- Confer with the other party or their attorney and figure out if there are any agreements or stipulations about different exhibits or the order of witnesses.
All of these need to be done as early as possible to prevent scrambling at the very last minute. This can help a pro se party save the time of day in their hearing.
- Stay calm and respectful in the courtroom.
Getting into the courtroom, a person needs to be calm, confident in their preparation, and most of all, respectful — to the judge, the other party, and their attorneys. There’s no doubt that the case, especially if it involves divorce and family matters, can get emotional, but pro se parties cannot let their emotions get the best of them.
- Ensure a clear request for relief.
In the remedy or request for relief, pro se parties should make sure to be specific, concise, and clear about exactly what they want the court to order. This should also be backed up with an explanation why the judge can legally give them what they want.
A court hearing can be a very overwhelming and nerve-wracking experience, especially for pro se parties who don’t have a lawyer to help them navigate it. But with these tips and the proper knowledge and preparation, a person can go through court hearings successfully.