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What I learned as a SRL.

Lessons learned representing myself

This will most likely be my last post. I approached this forum and received some great advice and support about a year ago. During this time, my mental health suffered because of the stress I put myself under all for "the child's best interests". The child (now 15) had other ideas and wants to be with his mother and grow up in a low socio economic environment without boundaries. I'm sure he'll come to his senses in years to come but that's a little late for me.

Here's what I learned from my time researching and attending court:

I'm so glad I represented myself. There's nothing a lawyer could have done for me that I didn't do myself (all in vain I might add). Legal advice was available at the court and if you timed it right, there was plenty of time for "free advice" so to speak. Unfortunately, not the same person was there for every session. Saved thousands. Don't be discouraged if you think legal action is your last alternative. Just be aware it takes a very long time.

This court system is very slow and frustrating. I thought it would have taken a month to resolve my particular situation (see the boy once a month and for the mother to facilitate visits (I hate that word). After a year, one phone call and a year of frustration. If you have a current family structure (partner /or children), think of them first. I found it hard to delineate between what I was going through in the courts and what was happening at home with my wife and children. Be aware of your behaviour at home. Even if you think you're doing the right thing by the child you want to be a part of, you're miles away from what is actually happening at your home. One day the child will realise your motives and your actions. If you want instant gratification, the FMC is not for you.

Even if you know the other party is lying in court, there's bugger all you can do about it. The guru's in this forum will be able to tell you how many parties were pursued for perjury even when proven their testimony was false. Very close to zero. Further, it would take even more months and frustration to see the thing through just to prove your account of an event. Vindication is slow and at the end of the day, worth little when the outcome you seek doesn't eventuate.  Depending on your situation, honestly think of the outcome you are seeking and the probability of remotely coming close to that outcome. The outcome could take years because of the shear number of caseload in the FMC.

Your matter may seem simple and straight forward (to you). If you're an average mum or dad in an average dwelling with an average income and your matter doesn't involve your child/ren being at risk (IMHO), your case is of little priority to the Magistrate. This is just my opinion on the way I was treated in the courtroom. There was very little opportunity to put your point forward (especially in mentions). The Magistrate stated on one occasion that there were "more important matters" to trend to. Right or wrong, the Magistrate is always right.

If you're going to self represent, attend lots of hearings. Knowledge of the proceedings is important.

Last thing, think about the time and effort you are going to or have put into your matter. My mental health suffered and I'm still bitter about how things turned out over the course of the year. A year of stress, research and court appearances for one phonecall. Lucky for me I have an understanding wife. Had I known it would have turned out the way it did, I most likely would not have proceeded through the FMC. Know when to say enough is enough when dealing with the courts.

At some stage in your life, you have to consider your health and your feelings when dealing with the child/ren. You haven't failed if you halt proceedings. It'll just take more time to get to know your children later in life, and if necessary, you have the documentation to prove you did all you could do at that time.

Best of luck with your matters.


You make some very pertinent points in your post. I feel for you with the end result. Unfortunately with any court proceedings there can never be any guaranteed results. For SRL's the court proceedings can be a very intimidating and nerve racking experience and as you say can induce mental health issues.

Apart from the need for SRL's to research what they need to know and what actually happens in court, I would also like to reiterate (and I am sure SoccerDad will concur) SRL's need to be exceptional at balancing. Balancing not only the court matters but balancing these court matters with their own personal lives.  There is never anything wrong in asking for help if you need it, even if that help is just a chat with a friend about what's troubling you.

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on the site (Look for the Avatars).   Be mindful what you post in the public areas

I hope you stick around a bit as you have a wealth of experience and knowledge that would be of much help for many people in similar situations to yourself.

I know of many stories where parents allow the children to rule the roost and know of some shocking stories where mothers have even had to call the police to remove their abusive children because they have had enough.

At the least when your son comes looking for you in the future to blame you for his problems, you can remind him that you tried very hard but suffered the same abuse that he is probably dishing out to his mother when he does not get his own way.

What you have done now will see you very well in the future.

As an SRL currently going through the court process to reinstate visits with my 12 year old child, I have to say that I totally agree with soccerdad. Everything he has said, has been, in my experience, absolutely spot on.

The process of going through FMC is enough to break even the strongest of mind.

My comments to Soccerdad back in 2010 remain pertinent. The FMC process is tough but no tougher than what many of us have been through, sometimes you need that mate who says lick your wounds and fight the good fight.

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on the site (Look for the Avatars).   Be mindful what you post in the public areas
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