Self RepresentingSelf Represented Litigant (SRL) is a term used in the Courts for those that represent themselves. Some legal documents may also refer to them as Litigants in Person (LIP).
The Family Courts allow you to self represent. The Courts do not allow time wasting or unnecessary Court action because you do not have legal bills to pay.
The biggest advantage of being an SRL is obviously cost savings. The biggest disadvantages are emotional involvement in the case and a lack of legal knowledge.
You cannot become an experienced legal professional overnight; you will need to put in some serious effort into your case to achieve a reasonable outcome against an experienced professional.
Help for SRLs is available from support organisations however many lawyers will also make unbundled legal help available to reduce your legal costs. This means that instead of the lawyer running your case from A to Z, they may only handle parts of your case i.e. E to K and M to P. In some cases the Court will also allow a McKenzie Friend to be present to sit next to you to keep you focused on the task in hand. If you intend to become an SRL or have to because of financial considerations, you need to understand some basics of the way the Courts may function and what support organisations can do.
The Right AttitudeIf you have any issues such as hurt, anger, revenge then please seek the help of a support group, friends or relatives. These issues will affect your judgment and presentation, and will be both noticed and commented on during any Court process.
Read or Learn the BasicsThere is a tremendous amount of information available however you will need a reasonably focused approach and this website will make available various focused materials.
Document Your CaseComplete a case outline of what the issues are about and your desired outcome. Discussing with a solicitor or other helper and forgetting key points and 'waffling on' is expensive with a solicitor and time wasting for support organisations.
Legal AdviceGet proper Legal advice about your case. Ask Legal Aid, ask a Community Legal Centre, use a solicitor that offers the first consultation 'free' or pay for a solicitor’s time (unbundling). GET SEVERAL LEGAL OPINIONS.
Caution: The quality and accuracy of any legal opinion will be dependent on the provider’s Family Law experience.
Work Out Your OptionsSpeak to support groups or contact some of the specialists on this site about your options, how to proceed, what help you may need and what preparation you need to make. Use the 'web' or speak to other individuals. GET SEVERAL OPTIONS.
Caution: The quality of the options may be dependent upon that individual’s own personal experience and may not reflect collective options and experience. You should be wary of ‘one case wonders’ who believe their one case gives them some special insight and knowledge of the way the whole Court system will handle your case.
The 5% RuleLegal practitioners or information providers may be providing information on the 5% rule. Only 5% of cases that go to Court are judicially determined the other 95% are settled by consent orders during the Court process. Is the advice or information being provided on the known 5% or the other 95% - or a combination of them? (Some material indicates the percentages are different in the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court)
What You Should NOT doBeing an SRL is often not only about what you should do, but rather what you should NOT do. Over the years Judges and others have provided details of what they considered were basic mistakes together with actions which annoy them. Additionally some appeals have listed fundamental errors and other 'perspective' papers have detailed various problem areas.
Individuals and organisations which provide support for SRLs have also provided details on the problems that occur both inside and outside Court and some of the difficulties in providing assistance to SRLs
Understand the Court is there for your case; not to argue what you believe the Law should be. You live in a democracy and if you believe any laws are wrong you have the right and freedom to try to change the Law. If you intend to use a Courtroom as a personal soapbox you have already wasted yours and the Court’s time, neither of which is likely to lead to a positive outcome.
The following are common mistakes and errors made by SRL's grouped into two categories, from the Court's perspective and from support organisations perspective. Learn them well!
The Courts Perspective
- Not understanding the key points of their case (in relation to the Family Law Act)
- Poor or abusive cross examination
- Unrealistic applications and expectations
- Poor affidavits (hearsay, opinions, wandering, incomprehensible, irrelevant)
- Meaningless support affidavits (relevance)
- Either no use of precedents or reference to ones not related to their case
- Poor, irrelevant or non-existent submissions
- Strange case chronologies
- Incorrect or no proper service or registration of documents
- Poor understanding of Courtroom procedures
- Not understanding the calling of witnesses
- Time wasting explaining or repetition of explanation to them
- Little or no preparation
- Not listening to the bench
- Poor presentation
- Inappropriate attire
- Argumentative, lack of respect for the Court
- Hidden agendas
- Using the Court as a soapbox
- Shooting the messenger
- Wasting too much time on issues not connected with their case
- Spending more time complaining than doing
- Telling the helper what's wrong with the system
- Assumption that the helper has unlimited free time and can drop everything to suit the SRL
- Assumption that the helper has unlimited financial resources to help them
- A something for nothing attitude and a lack of reciprocation
- Making broad statements about the law and the processes without any direct knowledge
- Fictional knowledge of Family Law (My mate at the club told me that a friend of his workmate went to Court and this will happen)
- Setting themselves up for an AVO
- Selective hearing
- Lack of organisation, no timetable, no planning
- Lack of records, notes and support documents
- Leaving it to the last minute then a drop everything plea for help
Dilbert said "If it wasn't for the last minute nothing would get done" and "I love the sound of deadlines, I like the whooshing sound as they rush by"
Don't leave it too late, people helping you may not have time available. Of course not everyone makes these mistakes, but it's a good indication of how to get offside with both the Court and helpers. Use these negatives to plan your positive approach.
Counselling, Mediation and Dispute Resolution
Before considering ANY Legal Action look at alternative options. The options may be less traumatic for you, your ex partner and your CHILDREN. Will you both attend counselling, mediation or dispute resolution? Are there friends, family or other persons that can intervene to prevent or minimise any legal processes? Can you resolve the issues without Court action?
Think carefully about this
- Can you avoid Court action
- Courts are not weapons
Before You Start
- Possibly you are angry or confused or upset
- If you are - you are not going to think clearly or rationally and be able to complete documents, research and present your case adequately
- You need to get out of this 'negativity' or control it properly before you can begin
Are You Ready to be an SRL?
- NO control issues with ex partner
- NO personal issues
- NO soapbox personality
- Life under some sort of control
- Willing to learn
- Able to devote the time and resources
- Third party help/assistance
The aim is to provide resources, support activities, services and the skills and knowledge needed for SRLs to better navigate the Courts by understanding the processes involved and what is required to better manage and present their case.
The site is also developing an SRL look up category in the Case Law area