Pro Se Custody: Tips for Representing Yourself in Court


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It’s quite possible you are going through a hard time right now, especially if your divorce was not amicable. When you add kids to the equation, everything becomes much more difficult. In case you and your former spouse cannot agree on joint custody, the process of getting sole custody or working out an arrangement can be quite tedious. However, despite all the obstacles, many parents decide that they want to represent themselves in court. So, to give you some insight into what you can expect if you choose this path, we came up with some risks you might encounter and some tips to get you ready for this fight.

Familiarize yourself with how the courts work

If you decide to take on this big responsibility, you have to learn all about how family court works. You can look online as there are many reliable videos to help you educate yourself. Furthermore, you should consider attending some court hearing before you make the decision to represent yourself, as that can help you understand the severity of the situation and give you a better grasp of court etiquette. Turning to the court clerk is also a possibility for whenever you have questions about court procedures.

Research the laws and rules that apply to you

It’s important that you understand the situation you are in, which is why you should look for some free local classes or advice. This can help you learn about the laws that concern you before your court hearing. If possible, look for some similar cases to see what the ruling was and how it was made. Once you know what you need to prove, you can work on your case more easily. You should also be aware of what the court takes into consideration when making a decision that is in the child’s best interest. Proper research of all outcomes will allow you to prepare yourself and handle the situation at hand.

Make sure you have all the necessary documents

In order to look professional, you must make sure all your documentation is neat and complete. Look into the court’s rules when it comes to written submissions and follow them, as you do not want paperwork to be the thing that costs you this case. There will also be deadlines which you have to meet for filing the documents, so don’t be late. The court clerk can be of great help when looking for the right forms, finding out where to submit them and due dates.

Don’t miss court hearings

Speaking of not being late, you must not miss or be late to your hearings. This is not something that can be rescheduled. In case you need to change the date, you must do it in advance by filing legal documents to get a new date for the hearing. Furthermore, being late will give the judge an impression that you do not care about this case enough, so make sure you get to the courthouse early.

Understand the risk of your ex having a lawyer

While you might decide to represent yourself, your former partner might hire a child custody attorney. This can pose a big problem to your case especially since professionals have experience and knowledge when it comes to dealing with these types of hearings. Seeing as how you are not an expert in this field, you might be at a disadvantage. In case you lose, you will not only potentially lose custody, but you could be ordered to cover the court and attorney costs of your ex as well.

Know how to act in court

If you are confident in your skills and choose to be your own representative in court, you should know how to act properly. You should listen to everything the judge and the opposing counsel are saying and take as many notes as you can, as that can help you build counter-arguments. Be very respectful when talking to the judge and your former spouse’s lawyer. Stay calm, collected and as objective as possible.

Before you decide to do this, think about whether you have the determination and skills necessary to fight for your child. If not, it might be better to turn to a professional who can advise you about the best course of action. Good luck!


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