As the economy struggles I regularly enter into cases in which the opposing party chooses to enter the courtroom without an attorney and inevitably the hearing is a debacle of errors and frustrations for all of the parties. Needless, to say the individual without an attorney does not know the rules of the courtroom and usually leaves extremely frustrated with the result. You see, the superior court is the court in which divorces or issues involving custody and visitation are decided. This is the same court that hears felonies involving the death penalty, the same court that awards adoptions or settles multi-million dollar commercial disputes. In essence, it is a very serious court and it is the polar opposite of the court represented in day time shows. The court represented on Judge Judy is a small claims court in which the rules of procedure and evidence do not apply, so individuals basically state their claims and the magistrate judge deciphers through the rhetoric. In Superior court the judge will expect the individual without an attorney to behave as one and play by the same rules as the attorney, yet the individual without an attorney does not know the rules and will find themselves at an enormous disadvantage.
Do you know what documents to file? How to prepare a child support addendum or parenting plan as required by statute, or how to exchange interrogatories and documents with the opposing side in preparation for litigation. More importantly do you know the statutory rules and procedures which dictate what you are entitled to receive or must give? I have dozens of people who come to my office burdened by an agreement they entered into while not represented. They did not know alimony should not have been granted, that they were entitled to a portion of a pension. They lose time with their children because they do not know how to present the evidence necessary or seek the appointment of a guardian ad litem. Before you enter into this situation unrepresented reflect on the seriousness of this moment in your life; you are literally entering into the most significant conflict you will most likely ever have. Remember, not only are you on foreign territory stumbling through the process you are emotionally distraught and during these times of emotional upheaval it is nothing short of foolish to enter into the court without someone at your side who can protect and guide you through the process.