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Representing Yourself in Court

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 10 Oct 2020 |
 
Court Family Representation Legal

The family court is a particularly informal kind of courtroom and the judges and magistrates who hear the cases are used to people representing themselves. Often, if the party on the other side is represented, this lawyer is told by the court to advise an unrepresented party about law and procedure. Barristers in particular have duties to assist people who are ‘litigants in person’, and must help you as much as possible, despite the fact that they are acting for the other side. You should also feel free to ask the judge, or the magistrates, for assistance if you get stuck at any point.

Do You Need to Resort to Court Action?

It is possible, and indeed commonplace, for people to apply to court to undertake their own representation at the family court. The family court is generally interested in one thing only – the best interests of the children involved. It is worth remembering that not all cases need to go to court, and a lot of issues can be settled outside the courtroom. You should only resort to litigation if you have tried all other options.

Using a Lawyer For Some Parts of Your Case

Some people use lawyers at certain stages of the legal process, but do most of the case preparation themselves: either seeking advice from solicitors at an early stage of the process and conducting the hearings themselves, or doing the solicitor’s job up until the final hearing stage, at which point they instruct an advocate (either barrister or solicitor) on their behalf.

Being a Litigant in Person

It is possible, however, to conduct the proceedings from start to finish yourself. The good news is that each case is decided on its particular facts and, as all family circumstances are different, you are the best person with the most in-depth knowledge of your own family circumstances. While lawyers can speak on your behalf, it is often the case that judges and magistrates appreciate litigants in person who are able to express their wishes first hand and without the assistance of a lawyer.

It is, however, important to remember that if your ex is represented by a lawyer, they will simply be putting the case as your ex sees it. What this means is that you shouldn’t get angry with your ex’s legal representative – he or she is just acting in the best interests of their client.

Particular Orders

To apply for a residence order you need to download the Children Act Form C1. This form is also the correct form you should use for a Contact Order, Specific Issue Order, a Parental Responsibility Order or a Prohibited Steps Order. This is available on the HM Courts website.

You should fill out the details of your child or children, your own details and that of your partner, and explain the order that you want to apply for, giving your reasons. There may be a fee to pay when you lodge this at court, but this depends on your financial circumstances. If in doubt, seek advice from the court office.

Contact Orders

If there is an existing Contact Order in place and, for example, one of the following occurs:
  • The order is not being complied with
  • You want to revoke an existing enforcement order
  • You want to amend an existing enforcement order because of a chance of address
  • You have lost money as a result of the contact order not being complied with
You should use form C79 which is available on the HM Courts and Tribunal Service website.

If you want to find out where your child is and want to ask the court for disclosure of their whereabouts, you will need Children Act Form C4.

Court Fees For Lodging Applications

If any of the following apply to you, you may not need to pay a court fee:

  • You receive Income Support
  • You are on Job Seeker's Allowance
  • You are on Guaranteed State Pension Credit
  • You are assisted by a solicitor under the ‘Legal Help’ scheme
  • You receive Working Tax Credit, if you are either receiving child tax credit, or there is a disability of severe disability element, and the gross annual income for calculation purposes is £15,450 or less
  • You have a funding certificate in place from the Legal Services Commission, in which case you should complete form EX160 for a fee exemption.

For more information about what happens when you get to court, see the article elsewhere on this website entitled What Happens at the Family Court?

Check out the Separated Dads Forum... It's a great resource where you can ask for advice on topics including Child Access, Maintenance, CAFCASS, Fathers Rights, Court, Behaviour or simply to have a chat with other dads.

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[Add a Comment]
@rick you should go ahead and file c100 to see child. You should get free consultation with solicitor about your property issue. That will probably be another court application
Steve - 10-Oct-20 @ 11:29 AM
Hi, I have been separated from my wife for over 2 years now. We have a daughter together who is 16months old - I have only seen my daughter a handful of times. My wife is very undermining of me and always wants me to see our daughter supervised by her own family, these people have assaulted me and made false allegations against me in the past. Social services have been involved due to domestic violence from me and my wife. I have written up the c100 form and now extremely worried that my wife might try to frame and get an order against me. She badmouthed me to my family, extended family and her family - they have called and harassed me. Please advice shall I go ahead with c100 to see my daughter - concerned that wife will put NMO. My wife has also changed the locks and keys to own jointly owned property. She. Has not given me keys and has not told me or notified me, I have not agreed/consented to this tenancy agreement and the tenants have moved in. Where do I stand as joint landlord, what are my rights?
Rick - 8-Oct-20 @ 12:43 AM
Hi, I have been separated from my wife for over 2 years now. We have a daughter together who is 16months old - I have only seen my daughter a handful of times. My wife is very undermining of me and always wants me to see our daughter supervised by her own family, these people have assaulted me and made false allegations against me in the past. Social services have been involved due to domestic violence from me and my wife. I have written up the c100 form and now extremely worried that my wife might try to frame and get an order against me. She badmouthed me to my family, extended family and her family - they have called and harassed me. Please advice shall I go ahead with c100 to see my daughter - concerned that wife will put NMO. My wife has also changed the locks and keys to own jointly owned property. She. Has not given me keys and has not told me or notified me, I have not agreed/consented to this tenancy agreement and the tenants have moved in. Where do I stand as joint landlord, what are my rights?
Rick - 21-Sep-20 @ 5:40 PM
My husband's ex doesn't let my husband see the child Solicitor asking for too much money Can we start all the procedure by ourselves,
Sevin - 8-Jul-20 @ 10:05 AM
@gaz.i just heard the mother has blood cancer I hope she dies slow painful death and she dyed her child’s hair blonde so she can have a mini me .in my personal opinion the child will turn out like her mother anyway .apparently the child what to no my heritage all she got to do is watch 60 minutes she will learn about me and my family then just type in my surname and my home town .yeah all my family are a little bit crazy we have a splash mental health issues but hey she wants to learn about my heritage and who daddy is .
Cwlaurie - 16-Dec-19 @ 5:09 PM
@gaz.if childs mother reads I hope she does for her (safety) stay away from my house and stop following me because I will( shot you for my honour Iswear on the bible and it doesn’t matter if I am (70 years old if you come near me I will shot you (dead )I swear on the bible ).now I sincerely means this it is my (last post) I am asking for you people to leave this post up for this (women safety ).
C w laurie - 16-Dec-19 @ 1:26 AM
@gaz.They can (resent) me as much as they want i am (never coming back) or ever living the same( lifestyle )I once lived with a (cheating women ).i have self respect now and one thing I have (learnt) in my life there are so many (younger prettier women out there )I was selling myself short when I was younger gods truth I settled for a older women with a child for god sake when I was 20 years old foolish little boy I was back then .yeah I have come along way sence then .seen I photo off this women Jesus she must off had a (hard life) because damn she looks old and beat down .as for child (stay with your mother I think she is going to need you) if I am honest.
Cwlaurie - 15-Dec-19 @ 7:08 PM
@gaz.i don’t want to get better because there is nothing wrong with me I see clearer then I have in my whole life .everything I do is for a (reason) I could have went and got a solicitor years ago i had a good (inheritance) so money wasn’t a issues and you could say I was on the (street) but I put myself there I was experiencing something different i was (reinventing myself )plus I was (working )just didn’t have a house I had a (Ute )and meet some off the best people in my life in fact it was the best time in my life (gods truth )I free from the boring normal existence I once lived having a women and kids doing old family thing .it might have looked (crazy) to my family but it was something I needed to do I was single I had money didn’t have children I wanted to see my country and I did just that .the child is a teenager now so I need to go to court .
Cwlaurie - 15-Dec-19 @ 5:44 PM
After reading some of these forums I would like to add some things and hope it helps. I went through a separation that led me to be on the streets, I almost lost my life to starvation and completely lost my way. After finally receiving help, I was told to take 12 months recovery, this was away from my children. I fully focussed on getting better and I approached for re-contact, my ex had moved and shut down all ways of contact. When we finally found them and got to court, this had taken a further 2 years, she had managed to prolong contact all that time, she had another man and had my children calling him ‘Dad’. I represented myself in court with all the facts, I seen off two different solicitors and after a long fight I won my case. Now I’m seeing them my ex is breaching the order and also alienating the children to the point that they are again refusing to come to me, therefore, after the first case of CAFCASS considering me for full custody, I will now be going back into court for that reason! There are many free advice centres out there that will attend in court with you as a majestic friend, they can not speak on your behalf, but can take notes and prompt you at times throughout the hearing. Look up local community law services in your area. Hope this info can help any parent out there.
Gaz - 15-Dec-19 @ 1:10 AM
@Anfield1892 - if your cousin's ex doesn't show - the court can decide in her absence.
Rob\ - 10-Nov-17 @ 10:55 AM
Hi, Mu cousin is currently in the stage of trying to gain visitation of his child. The mother decided to up and move overnight. She has moved to Yeovil from Leeds (200 miles away). The child has expressed his desire to see his father and there are no safeguarding concerns and he has been ever present in his child’s life.(issue seems to stem from father beginning a relationship with a new woman although they have been separated nearly 7 yrs). The mother has not engaged with the courts so far and failed to attend the first hearing (later found out she had not been served the papers) and mediation. The next hearing has been set for next week 14/11 but we do feast that she won’t show at court. This will mean a third hearing but will drag out beyond Xmas. Is my cousin able to get a special visitation order so that he can see his son over the holidays even though the case will be ongoing? Any advice is appreciated.
Anfield1892 - 8-Nov-17 @ 7:09 PM
Gttm - Your Question:
Hi I relieved a letter and Dates for courts.one will be ugent court second one first hearing.was lookinh for solicitors but end up like I need to change my statement (previous solicitors did wrong ) and I need barrister (£1250) can’t afford than course is next week.Can I present my self ? Court is to put In place arrangement child and prevent removed my kid from uk.(But on my statement says I am ok if she moves with arrangement)Can I just go my self to court ?

Our Response:
You can see more via the Bar Council link here , which should help answer your question.
SeparatedDads - 2-Nov-17 @ 2:10 PM
Hi I relieved a letter and Dates for courts .one will be ugent court second one first hearing .was lookinh for solicitors but end up like I need to change my statement (previous solicitors did wrong ) and I need barrister (£1250) can’t afford than course is next week . Can I present my self ? Courtis to put In place arrangement child and prevent removed my kid from uk . (But on my statement says I am ok if she moves with arrangement) Can I just go my self to court ?
Gttm - 1-Nov-17 @ 10:15 PM
Hello, sorry I am not a separated father but a divorced mother, and I am at my wits end with my ex. He left me and my two kids, now 14 and 11, for another woman 6 years ago, and ever since Contact has been fraut because his priority has been his girlfriend, something he admitted in mediation! After leaving us, he quickly became a father again, this put extra pressure on this new relationship and as a result when arguing with his girlfriend he tried to hit her over the head with a baking tray, missed her and hit their new baby on the head, then as his girlfriend was trying to get out the house he smashed her head against the front door, he was convicted of assault and battery. Luckily my children were not with him. He only told me of this incident when social services where about to contact me. I have always wanted my kids to have Contact with their father, my only proviso was to know where they would be overnighting and I could contact them! This became an issue when they moved house, his girlfriend then threatened him she would move back up north if I ever found out the address. He then chose in front of a court to only see his children 4hrs every 2 weeks because he wouldn’t disclose there address. There was no reason for them not to disclose the address other than their guilt and paranoia. He took me to court over access but stopped proceedings when he realised he wouldn’t like what the court would make him do. I have offered him 2 weekends a month and half the holidays, this does not fit into his new life and wants to pick and choose when he wants them! We have come up with several Contact plans, always what he wants, but when he breaks arrangements I stop Contact and we are back to square one. Last weekend he picked my children up from school, it was his weekend, told them he was getting married the next day, then confiscated their phones, and took them to a unknown location. I couldn’t contact my kids and didn’t know where they were! I can’t trust him, he doesn’t put the kids first and just put them in an impossible situation!! My daughter who is 14 now, told me they bad mouth me all the time and it makes them feel really uncomfortable! My sons behaviour at home is shocking, I have had to sign him up to anger management classes at school! I have taken them both to councilling, they said there dad and girlfriend argue all the time, and I am afraid there will be another incident like before! I would rather not involve a solicitor as our divorce cost a fortune just to sort the finances. I believe I need some sort of court order so he stops messing us about!! He says he has joint custody which is just a joke! I am the resident parent, he lives 1.5 hrs away from his kids! I want to know where I stand, if a court order is something I can get, he is a convicted criminal and last weekend he as good as kidnapped my kids! Any advice would be great thanks!
Chilli - 13-Oct-17 @ 12:19 PM
Hi,I have been separated from my youngest daughters mum for almost 3 years, there were overnight stays on and off for my daughter up until November 2016. She still let's me see her when it suits her but everything on her terms, there was never an issue until I started seeing someone in April last year (even though she moved someone in after 5 weeks of our split) I have also received a letter from cma saying I need to pay more than the 150 she already gets as there are no overnight stays, both myself and my daughter who is 7 are desperate for things to get back to normal yet my ex insists on being awkward and has obviously partly done this to get more money out of me. I have spent almost 2000 in solicitors fees yet the outcome has been appalling as she will not respond or get a solicitor until I take her to court! This would cost me another 8000 my solicitor has stated, money I would rather spend on my daughter is might add. I have tried to work things out also but to no avail and court is the only option. Advice please?? Thank you in advance
Richard - 3-Mar-17 @ 5:33 AM
Hi, I sent in C100 court papers 8 days ago and today I have received a text from my ex saying thankyou for putting the court papers in. This seem extremely quick for a court to cash my cheque and start proceedings by writing to my ex. I'm a little suspicious as she filed for divorce about 8 weeks ago and I refused, am I right in assuming that the family court papers wouldn't of arrived to her so soon ?
misty - 7-Dec-16 @ 7:44 PM
Hi guys I separated from my wife and she has stopped me from seeing the kids by getting them to tell me they no longer want to see me Can I represent my case to a court by myself as she has gone through the csa for child support and I can't afford to get a solicitor and not eligible for legal aidI need help what can I do
Hearney - 27-Oct-16 @ 9:08 AM
Hi guys, myself and my ex broke up a couple of months ago. I am not on my daughter's birth certificate however I have paperwork from CSA stating my ex has informed them I am the father and need to pay. (Which I am). My ex is adiment i am neve4 alo7d to See my daughter again and has even gone as far as to tell people I'm not safe to be around kids. (She has no evidence of this) and there is no truth in it. Ive also informed the police of what she's been saying. I know she won't willingly attend mediation so i was wondering what my other options are? I cant afford a solicitor. Thanks in advance
Dan - 13-Oct-16 @ 8:54 AM
Tom10 - Your Question:
Hi my ex wife and I broke up nearly 4 years ago and got divorced last year. I've been with my current partner for 3 years in that time she's made it difficult to see my daughter but since my partner got pregnant she has stopped me seeing my daughter for the last 8 months. I've been to mediation which she refused to attended so I've now applied for c100 application to the court. I've representing myself at court as I have parental rights and there's no child protection act or domestic violence so was advised it would be straight forward at court. Would anyone be able to help me about what the court will be like representing myself and how long the process will be so I have some advise please! Thank you

Our Response:
You may find our Separated Dads forum useful here. I'll also put this question to our Separated Dads Facebook page, please refer to the page for answers. Good luck.
SeparatedDads - 21-Sep-16 @ 3:03 PM
Hi my ex wife and I broke up nearly 4 years ago and got divorced last year. I've been with my current partner for 3 years in that time she's made it difficult to see my daughter but since my partner got pregnant she has stopped me seeing my daughter for the last 8 months. I've been to mediation which she refused to attended so I've now applied for c100 application to the court. I've representing myself at court as I have parental rights and there's no child protection act or domestic violence so was advised it would be straight forward at court. Would anyone be able to help me about what the court will be like representing myself and how long the process will be so I have some advise please! Thank you
Tom10 - 21-Sep-16 @ 9:55 AM
Arron - Your Question:
Hey I need some advice I am 21 years old and I have a 3 year son.I split up with my ex about a year ago.I tried to have my son every other weekend as I work away and whenever she wanted to go out which was most weekends.She has currently met someone else and has moved somewhere else but I do not know where I have tried to contact her to see my son but she has blocked my calls blocked me on social media.tried to contact herMumBut she has done the same as well.It has been 2 months of trying to see him but has no success.I need some advice on what to do as I'm stuck.

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. You would have to apply through court for a c100 contact order and a C4 form which is an application for an order for disclosure of a child's whereabouts. This will allow the court to trace your son in order to allow you to apply for contact. If you have parental responsibility you ex should have asked your permission to move out of the area with your son.
SeparatedDads - 1-Sep-16 @ 1:47 PM
Hey I need some advice I am 21 years old and I have a 3 year son .I split up with my ex about a year ago .I tried to have my son every other weekend as I work away and whenever she wanted to go out which was most weekends.She has currently met someone else and has moved somewhere else but I do not know where I have tried to contact her to see my son but she has blocked my calls blocked me on social media .tried to contact her Mum But she has done the same as well .It has been 2 months of trying to see him but has no success .I need some advice on what to do as I'm stuck .
Arron - 28-Aug-16 @ 9:06 PM
I have recived my court date and my ex as had here say Sbe put the court application So what about to my defence how do I go about that a speedy reply woulf be handy if anybody knows.
Boo82 - 10-Jul-16 @ 11:13 AM
Me and my husbands have a domestic violence case. he is imprisoned for 6 months and make a restraining order . now his 4 month imprisoning is over. now my kids are blaming me too much. how i cancel the restraining order? i need to rejoin him with us? Please help me. Sreya
Sreya - 20-Jun-16 @ 9:05 AM
Minnie - Your Question:
Me and my ex split up in 2009 he won custody of our son I si him every Saturday up until January 2016 now he as stopped me seeing him all because I didn't go some Saturdays because I was ill he said I was letting my son down and also some Saturdays he told me not to go and blamed me for it I miss my son so much just don't know what to do anymore

Our Response:
Please see article; When Your Ex-Partner Denies You Access, hereand if your ex does not agree to trying to solve the matter by mediation, then you would have to take the matter to court. Unfortunately, there are no other options if you wish to have access of your child re-instated, especially if there is already a court order in place. If you have an illness that prevents you from seeing your child, then you would have to specify this to Cafcass who will relay this to the judge and court.
SeparatedDads - 25-May-16 @ 11:25 AM
Me and my ex split up in 2009 he won custody of our son I si him every Saturday up until January 2016 now he as stopped me seeing him all because I didn't go some Saturdays because I was ill he said I was letting my son down and also some Saturdays he told me not to go and blamed me for it I miss my son so much just don't know what to do anymore
Minnie - 24-May-16 @ 1:10 PM
dee - Your Question:
So due to ill health I consented to my ex having my son and we have parental responsibility.I cannot afford a solicitor but intend to move closer as my contact is a fewcalls and friday to sunday fortnightly due to 120 difference and part time work commitements.How do I get more access without a solicitor as I cannot afford one and my ex is unreasonable.sending constant threats to "suspend" access so I know already he wont agree willingly to an increase in access?I need a guide on how to obtain more access free or minimal cost ie just court fee and or free legal guidence please.

Our Response:
As laid out in the article you can self-litigate. The Bar Council also has a guidance leaflet here which may help, See also: Using a McKenzie Friend in Court, here . I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 27-Apr-16 @ 12:44 PM
So due to ill health i consented to my ex having my son and we have parental responsibility. I cannot afford a solicitor but intend to move closer as my contact is a fewcalls and friday to sunday fortnightly due to 120 difference and part time work commitements. How do i get more access without a solicitor as i cannot afford one and my ex is unreasonable. sending constant threats to "suspend"access so i know already he wont agree willingly to an increase in access? I need a guide on how to obtain more access free or minimal cost ie just court fee and or free legal guidence please.
dee - 26-Apr-16 @ 5:07 PM
My son left his ex girlfriend time and time again but went back because of emotional blackmail, they have a two year old son and she has two other children from previous relationships. The relationship was very up and down, she thought she had a personality disorder but had now told him its depression! 8 days ago, while both parents attended brains first day at play group, he was friendly( for his sons sake) she went home, with grandson and rang respective fathers, myself and told us she was going to commit suicide ( she has said this before) she proceeded to take oramorph, codeine and alcohol ( she says ) paramedics rang my son to go get his son, she's sitting there saying it was OK, her son was fine!! Gs has been staying with us since then, as my son is living with myself, my husband and my two youngest children. Social services have spoken to my son and advised him to keep gs, she's supposedly sorted herself out, behind for her son back, also her other two kids, then yesterday my son agreed his son could go back,but with conditions, she's them said she's not ready!! Unbelievable, she's ready to get a new tattoo, buy bags and new clothes and put up half naked pics of herself on a popular internet site! My son wants full parental responsibility, but she's on benefits and is saying she'll be going through things with her solicitor, I'm worried what she has planned, my son has just gone into business and has next to no income, we're splitting him and his son, and we can't afford a solicitor, please, can anyone offer some advise on what we as a family can do next? We have so many concerns would take all day to write them!
Charmaine g - 22-Apr-16 @ 10:23 AM
Helen- Your Question:
My son ex partner up and took his son back to her home town with no warning say it was because of domestic violence he never laid a finger on her and she was frightened he take their son of her like he said he would never do that in the three week that she been gone he lost his home and is back here with me now he seen a solicitor who gave him some form to fill in and take to the courts I don't know which ones but he is scared because he no help in the courts what research help can I find out about to support him thank you

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this and it is all very scary when an issue like this occurs. You don't say how far away she is, or whether your son has Parental Responsibility, as if so his ex should have asked his consent before she left the area. The courts do wish for fathers to have access to their children, so he should not be fearful here if he has done nothing wrong, please see link: Being Falsely Accused of Domestic Violence, here . I suggest in the first instance taking some legal advice regarding his options, he may be entitled to some free advice via the Citizens Advice Bureau of a solicitor who may offer the first half hour free. If he cannot locate his child your son would have to apply through the courts for access C100 form and a C4 form which is an application for an order for disclosure of a child's whereabouts. Please also see: When Your Ex-Partner Denies You Access, here. Also I advise reading as many of the Separated Dads pages in order to become informed and educated on the subject. Also, our forum may help as our dads can offer good advice having been through the process before. I hope he gains access to his son soon.
SeparatedDads - 18-Apr-16 @ 10:54 AM
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