You’re representing yourself. You’re going to see more documents than you’ll ever want to see. By the end of it you’re going to say a few words of prayer for the many trees that have died to make all the paper you’ve used. For the more environmentally responsible amongst you out there you may want to plant a few trees to reduce your carbon footprint.
You may want to celebrate the end of your case by having a large bonfire at the end of it all and dance around it with the beverage of your choice a la `The Wicker Man’.
But until that day comes you better make sure you have all your paperwork in a logical, easy-to-get-to format that will make your life as easy as possible. Because it’s going to be hard enough as it is.
Here at Family Law Towers we specialise in bringing order to chaos. Present us with a carrier bag of dog-eared, random pieces of paper you have shoved in the post or brought to us and we’ll give you an organised and logically-presented set of documents that you can refer to at any point in your case.
You’re not going to need it for every hearing (OK, OK…you are technically going to need it for every hearing seeing as Practice Direction 27A now says that a bundle is required for every hearing but it’s overkill in a lot of cases). Practice Direction 27A also says that as a litigant in person your ex’s solicitor is going to have to do it (or it’ll be you if you’re the applicant and he/she doesn’t have a solicitor). And to complicate matters it’s often worth you doing your own bundle in any event but we won’t go into that here.
We’ve assisted at any number of hearings where we’ve seen litigants fishing through their `carrier bag of life’ looking for a document the judge would rather like to see but it can’t be found.
You know…the documents that swing the entire trajectory of your case. That sort of stuff.
Preparation, preparation, preparation.
Further to what I say above you will need a bundle for a substantive hearing (although it’s common for the court to request just a witness statement from LiPs). That’ll be the time to present the evidence we’ve advised you don’t throw at the court in a directions or review hearing (because no one will want to see them there).
Even if you aren’t going to have a substantive hearing (and if it happens if you agree an order with the ex) it’s well worth organising your files as such:
- Get a ring binder. A big one. Get file dividers too.
- Single-sides please. Copies, not original documents. Keep them elsewhere.
- Group your documents. Applications & Orders. Statements. Reports. Correspondence.
- Put each group of documents in chronological order (oldest at the front, newest at the back).
- Put dividers in the folder, with the group of documents. Applications & Orders in B, Statements in C, Reports in D, Correspondence in E. Section A is for other docs you’ll need to produce yourself (we’ll discuss these at some point in the future).
That’s it for the moment. Congratulations! You have a half-prepared trial bundle and your documents to hand at all hearings.
Hearings are complicated and stressful enough as it is. Don’t make it harder for yourself.