What are they?!

Having worked with clients who self-represent for over 10 years, there are three things that will stand out and be imperative to get right before you head down the road of self-representing.  This may sound daunting and overwhelming because it is new, it is the unknown.  But once you learn the basics it may be the way to go if you are unable to afford a solicitor.

The TOP 3 Tips :
  1. Confidence – you need to ask yourself if you would be able to be calm, understanding and able to listen if you are going to self-represent.
  2. Child focused – When placing your paperwork together you will need to ensure that you are child focused. The courts state that a child is to have a meaningful relationship with both parents, so your angle needs to come from this place
  3. Experience – Get a feel of a court room, go and sit in a court room – I always suggest to my clients that are about to self-represent to take some time and sit in court room, to get the vibe of the what happens with in the family/federal circuit court.

A few considerations:

1.Attitude

I have had many clients come and explain the family law system is broken, yes I am very aware that it is. But I explain that a broken system can still be workable, with the right attitude and mindset.

I have had clients, angry, furious and wanting to take it out on the court system, this is not helpful for the times where the client is trying to access contact with their child/children.  Coming from a place of this emotional turbulence will not work in the client’s favour. 

I hear many times:

  • “it is not fair”,
  • “it is biased system”,
  • “why do I have to do all the proving that I am a good parent.” 

I feel those frustrations whole heartedly, but I always say the focus right now is your child/children, what is that HAS to be done so that there are orders that will ensure that they are able to have a relationship with you.  It is all about being pro-active as oppose to reactive. 

2. Paperwork

Understanding how to pull paperwork together, it is important that paperwork is :

  • factual
  • readable and
  • realistic.

This goes back to the first important tip of being child focused.

If paperwork is not worded correctly it can be thrown out of court, so it is important to have your paperwork overlooked by a professional or professionally typed.  Many times I have read affidavits that are filled with emotions, which is understandable as it is a highly emotional time. Often, clients are not seeing their children and they feel that they are being taunted by the other party.  But an affidavit should not  be a place to voice our anger, distress and the disdain we may have for the other parent. 

An affidavit is the statement that will support your application, so it is very important to keep it factual! Yes, it is easier said than done when you are in the midst of this emotional journey.  I say, keep it factual as you want your affidavit to be readable. So, short factual paragraphs sticking with facts are so important. There are laws that underpin the length of an affidavit, so it is very important that the story presented is honouring the application that you are putting in, keeping it child focused.

3. Are you the Applicant or the Respondent?

There are different ways on how the paperwork is handled. If you are the applicant you will need to ensure you have the paperwork properly served on the other parties.  

If you the respondent – the way your affidavit and application will be presented differently.  You will need to answer each paragraph of the applicant’s affidavit, then give your version and you will also either agree or disagree with the application.  Respondents can send their paperwork by uploading it to the federal circuit portal. 

4. Dress SMART!

I have visited court rooms for over 10 years, and many times seen the way people present themselves. Appearance speaks volumes, so it is important to dress in a business like manner, pants, shirt, skirt.  Tracksuits, jeans, work uniforms: I understand are convenient and comfortable but it is about respect to the court, and who you will stand in front of the magistrate or judge.

You may think they are not watching, but they do they take it all in.  It is also very important to that you consider bowing to the magistrate/judge when leaving the room if they are at the bench.

Jodie Myintoo is a counsellor from Melbourne specialising in separation, divorce, single parents and blended families. To find out more about Jodie’s work, head to her website 

Her details can also be found in our directory.

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