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Representing Yourself in Court

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 19 Oct 2017 |
 
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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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
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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
My partner is at a loss of what to do and where to go next so any advice would be greatly received. He has two children one who is 16 and one who is 12. His 16 year old we have always been told by his ex wife doesn't want any contact. They split up just over a year ago. He was seeing his youngest child but then we were told he too no longer wanted any contact. The ex wife has moved (we have no idea where) and changed all emails and phone numbers. She has also told many many lies including, she is a battered wife, that he beat his kids, that he is in a mental institution. she has also made ludicrous claims to the police regarding harassment and the latest and worst allegation of sexual assault to their son. My partner has been through absolute hell this last year and we don't have the funds to be able to have a solicitor. We also know that she lying to the children about their dad for example they have been led to believe he doesn't pay any maintenance and that there is a court order out denying him any access what so ever.... non of which is true. We firmly believe she has alienated the children from their father with a whole host of lies. what should we do? how can we set about getting contact??...he desperately needs to have a relationship with his children.
ellie - 14-Aug-17 @ 1:21 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
Hearney - Your Question:
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 aid I need help what can I do

Our Response:
Yes, you can. Please see the Bar Council advice leaflet here which is very informative. Our other article: Legal Aid Withdrawal: How to Represent Yourself, here and Using a McKenzie Friend in Court, here will give you more information. See also: When Your Ex-Partner Denies You Access, here which will give you the step-by-step procedure to go through. There are also letter templates on our site which will help you further. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 28-Oct-16 @ 11:11 AM
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
Dan - Your Question:
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

Our Response:
You would have to take the matter to court, see also link here. You would need to suggest mediation to your ex first and give her chance to say no, then you can apply through the courts (if you are on a low income you may also be able to apply to get your court fees waived, please see link here). Before the matter goes to court Cafcass will get involved and write a report, please see link here .From the interviews they conduct, the Cafcass reporter will determine two things: whether there should be contact allowed, and, if so, how much. It’s a measure of how important the Cafcass recommendation is that the court will almost invariably adhere to it. Please be aware the court is not interestsed in slanging matches between you and your ex, and unfounded accusations. Cafcass/the court will make a decision based upon what it thinks is in the best interests of your children, and your previous conduct and contact with your children and the part you have played to date in their lives.
SeparatedDads - 14-Oct-16 @ 10:30 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
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
Helen - 17-Apr-16 @ 8:30 AM
My partner and I have made an application to the court for a child arrangements order to see his son. We have been sent documents (C7) that ask for information from us as though we are the respondent. We just don't know what to do and when we contact the court they don't seem to know either. It also says "Date of Directions Appointment" at the top of the page and gives a date that's already passed and no time. We can't afford solicitors and are feeling so confused by the whole process. Can anyone help?
Loulou - 2-Apr-16 @ 12:40 PM
Hi, I'm 21 I been brought up by my stepfather from age 9,my stepfather passed away last year and he left me an his daughter out of will his daughter put her clam .Do you think I have right to ask something from estate too? Could I represent myself on mediation day? What form I need? or I just sent my letter I like to put myclaim ?Kind regards.Vicky
Tanya - 24-Mar-16 @ 5:43 PM
Hornedog - Your Question:
Hi my ex is taking me to court regards putting a prohibited order on me so my children can not leave thier home town he currently has a restraining order against him wich states he is only allowed contact with them through third party whom is which is mother.I am due to marry in a few weeks to my husband to be who is in the armed forces we have a house ready and waiting for us to move into also in a few weeks what are the chances of this prohibited order being put in place?

Our Response:
I'm afraid it is impossible to predict what a court may decide. However, it usually takes on board the suggestions of the Cafcass report.
SeparatedDads - 1-Mar-16 @ 2:31 PM
Hi my ex is taking me to court regards putting a prohibited order on me so my children can not leave thier home town he currently has a restraining order against him wich states he is only allowed contact with them through third party whom is which is mother.I am due to marry in a few weeks to my husband to be who is in the armed forces we have a house ready and waiting for us to move into also in a few weeks what are the chances of this prohibited order being put in place?
Hornedog - 29-Feb-16 @ 7:30 PM
Will - Your Question:
My ex wife has been to see a solicitor & I have received a letter today stating that she is alleging that I have been harassing her & sending threatening text messages to her & my children & my children are upset & don't want to see me anymore. None of this is true & for the last 9 yrs I have had regular contact with my children & have transported them to & from school daily. I have them to stay over on nights during the week & alternate weekends. The letter states I cannot have any kind of contact with my children until the case is heard in court. This is the first letter I have received in regards to any of this. My only income is my state pension & I have no way of affording legal representation. What can I do ?

Our Response:
Your ex can only bring this to court and have a chance of winning if she has evidence to back these accusations up. I suggest you try and take some legal advice from a solicitor (free hour) or the Citizens Advice Bureau, who may give you free advice. You can also self-litigate, as discussed in the article. Please also see: When Your Ex-Partner Denies You Access, here, which will tell you you may be able to apply for an interim order prior to the case coming to court. You may also find our Separated Dads Facebook page useful for advice. I have recently posted a comment from someone who has had sucess self-litigating.
SeparatedDads - 19-Feb-16 @ 2:25 PM
Burts - Your Question:
Hi everyone, I self litigated from the beginning my my son is 5 months old and I meet him for the first time Saturday week,I have my final hearing Tuesday and cafcass have deemed everything my ex said as a lie, aslong as you stay calm and honest and most importantly reasonable you will be fine, as for the cost I only paid £215 pound for the courts, I went to a few diffrent solictors and used a free hour wisely, they do help but there's still alot of researching to be done, *remember the Internet has good and bad reviews on cases, everyone is diffrent so don't be dis heartened by what you read sometimes, everyone has rights to be a parent.

Our Response:
Many thanks for your comments here, they are very useful and I shall put this on our Separated Dads Facebook page to help others. Wishing you the best of luck seeing and building a continued relationship with your son.
SeparatedDads - 19-Feb-16 @ 11:15 AM
My ex wife has been to see a solicitor & I have received a letter today stating that she is alleging that I have been harassing her & sending threatening text messages to her & my children & my children are upset & don't want to see me anymore. None of this is true & for the last 9 yrs I have had regular contact with my children & have transported them to & from school daily. I have them to stay over on nights during the week & alternate weekends. The letter states I cannot have any kind of contact with my children until the case is heard in court. This is the first letter I have received in regards to any of this. My only income is my state pension & I have no way of affording legal representation.What can I do ?
Will - 18-Feb-16 @ 7:43 PM
Hi everyone, I self litigated from the beginning my my son is 5 months old and I meet him for the first time Saturday week,I have my final hearing Tuesday and cafcass have deemed everything my ex said as a lie, aslong as you stay calm and honest and most importantly reasonable you will be fine, as for the cost I only paid £215 pound for the courts, I went to a few diffrent solictors and used a free hour wisely, they do help but there's still alot of researching to be done, *remember the Internet has good and bad reviews on cases, everyone is diffrent so don't be dis heartened by what you read sometimes, everyone has rights to be a parent.
Burts - 18-Feb-16 @ 1:19 PM
Bobbie - Your Question:
Hi, I am fortunate to have across this website. My ex took my British children out of the UK during the summer holidays and has since not returned. Travelled to Uganda. I have tried to ask her back to look into mediation, but she sounds quite vindictive. I am looking to represent myself in family court. Please advice

Our Response:
Please see article: What is Abduction? here which should point you in the right direction.
SeparatedDads - 19-Jan-16 @ 2:37 PM
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