Represent myself? It's not doing a jigsaw puzzle!

I can’t represent myself? Yes you can!

Represent myself? I can’t do that!

Can I?? <Insert stuff about legal professionals, highly complex law and you not being up to it ;-)>

This is something we hear often. It may surprise you but the reality is many people that decide to represent themselves do so for a number of reasons – not just cost. True…some do so because they can’t afford solicitors (starting at around £250 an hour) and barristers (prices available upon request) but it is true but a lot of people choose to do so because they haven’t felt they’ve been represented adequately in the past. The phrase `I sat there without saying a word while my solicitor/barrister ignored everything I’d told him/her and just agreed to stuff I didn’t want’ is fairly typical.

I am not taking away from the amazing work many solicitors and barristers do. But why would anyone want to represent themselves? Simple! They have the who, what, why and when on the tip of their tongue. If it’s a child contact dispute then no one is going to know their child better than you! If it’s finance case then no one is going to know what that £200 you withdrew law year more than you!

But I’m not allowed to represent myself am I?

Represent myself? It's not doing a jigsaw puzzle!You are. You have a legal right to do so.

Litigants in persons have got some stick over the years and have been accused of prolonging the court process. Sure, they need guidance on how court procedure – what forms to fill in, what to say in court, what they can and can’t do – but you can sure as hell bet you won’t want to be there if there is an alternative.

Courts are always a last-chance saloon. Aside from the fact that the coffee leaves much to be desired (although there is a nice cafe in Newport, Leicester has a passable canteen and the Royal Courts of Justice has a Costa stand) it is also an adversarial place. Tempers are frayed, emotions run high. There’s a good chance you are going to hear some not nice things said about you and you are undoubtedly going to feel frustrated.

As a McKenzie Friend I see this all too often. I’ve been doing it for too many years to be surprised about anything. I have seen people jumping on tables after a court hearing shouting “’It’s not fair” in a toddler style; I’ve seen grown men cry after being reunited with their children and I’ve seen a mother disintegrate on the floor after her child was removed from her care.

It’s fair to say that not much surprises me and I know how to react to drama such as this.

It also means I can provide some hints on good practice to make your legal experience easier and more successful.

Here we go.

Represent myself in court. 3 Top Tips

  1. Represent myself? Won't there be too much paperwork?Be Organised! Don’t stick all of those papers in the breadbin! Get yourself a lever arch folder and put all of your communication in date order. This will help you in the long run.
  2. Take someone with you. Preferably a Mckenzie Friend. You may be organised but that won’t mean you will be any less emotional. Ideally you need someone to be in the court room with you so that they can explain any “legalese” or tell you to wind your neck in or to tell you to get to the point. We specialise in kicking people under the table at appropriate points.
  3. Be focused: Whether it’s child or money matters keep it focused at all times. Don’t discuss things that aren’t relevant – and know what is relevant by understanding what matters to the court and what isn’t.

The truth is that this isn’t rocket science. If you’re organised, focused and calm you already have increased your chances of success without knowing any law whatsoever greatly. These are things that anyone can do if they are determined enough – and with the stakes potentially being so high you’ll have plenty of motivation!

I wasn’t married to my ex- how do I get what I am financially entitled to?

Sooo…you meet, you fall in love, you move in. Happy ever after, right? Until it’s not.That day when one of you decides that l’amour is no more.

The  truth is that YOU ARE NOT MARRIED. In the eyes of the law you are simply COHABITEES. And this is when life gets a little more tricky. Take a deep breath and learn this universal truth that THE LAW DOES NOT COVER COHABITEES.

If you were married then all of your finances would be dealt with under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.

But we have children, a house together, a mortgage, loans together, savings together. What happens to those?

There is no quick fix to getting a remedy to any of the above and there are several laws that will help. I am going to break it down as simply as I can.

CHILDREN: You can make an application under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 for financial provision for your child/ren. Don’t confuse this with child maintenance payments. Different thing entirely. An order under Schedule 1 can provide for a lump sum payment; settlement or transfer of property and periodical payments that are above the CMS calcs. These would potentially include school fees or if your child/ren are disabled and he/she doesn’t receive all or some of his/her disability benefit.

HOUSE: This can be settled under The Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (ToLATA). This Act can decide who are the legal and beneficial owners of a property, and in what proportions. If the two of you cannot come to an agreement as to what to do with the property then an application under this piece of legislation may be the ticket.

Rule of thumb: Money follows children.

LOANS: So you both are incredibly in debt, you both have loans and credit cards. You may even have loans that Aunt Maude lent you for that kitchen or that expensive guitar you’d always had your eye on. You may have left the house and forgot to take your Ming vase.

A way that you could get a remedy for this under small claims court. Thankfully the Government have made this process fairly simple and you can make an online claim.

MEDIATION: None of the above should be attempted without mediation. Who wants to go to court? NO ONE. So it is in everyone’s best interests to see if an arrangement can be achieved without the courts’ involvement.

It can be a maze out there. It is far from straightforward. In order to obtain any kind of financial remedy after you gone your separate ways requires planning and picking which would be the right application for you.