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risks of self-representation in family court

What are the Risks of Self-Representation in the Family Court?

It’s no secret that going to court is expensive.  If you’re in a sticky financial situation and you don’t qualify for Legal Aid, it may be that you have no other option but to self-represent.  To the contrary, you may feel that you can competently present your case for yourself and in the interests of minimising costs, you see self-representing as a simple way to skip the hefty fees associated with hiring a legal team.  Either way, it’s imperative that you’re aware of the myriad of risks that may arise in being a self-represented litigant for your upcoming family matter.

1. The judge won’t run your case for you.

Whilst the presiding judicial member may make information available to you as per the guidelines set out in Re F: Litigants in Person Guidelines [2001] FamCA 348 to ensure that you’re afforded procedural fairness, in the interests of remaining impartial and neutral to all parties, the judge cannot litigate or make substantive arguments for you.  This means that you’re left to entirely advocate for yourself, likely with no legal training or prior exposure to court procedures.

2. A lack of legal knowledge will hinder your case.

It is reasonable that the average self-represented litigant does not have legal training.  Without such, it’s improbable that you’re able to grasp a full and proper understanding of how to present your facts to the court.  It’s also unlikely that you’ll be aware of applicable sections of law that could work in your favour.  If the other party has retained lawyers for the proceeding, you’ll be disadvantaged by having to run against a legally educated and trained barrister well-versed in Family Law legislation and procedures.  An inability to appropriately plead your case may cause the judge to swiftly dismiss your application if they deem the grounds or facts to be insufficient.  If your application is dismissed and you feel inclined to re-submit an application, you run the risk of the court making vexatious proceeding findings.

3. You may be prevented from bringing further proceedings… and you might pay anyway!

A vexatious proceeding is one which is found to be frequently instituted or pursued without reasonable ground.  Should the court find that your applications are repetitively made without any real prospect of success, section 102QB of the Family Law Act gives the court power to make final orders prohibiting you from instituting further proceedings.  The Act also provides that the judge may make a costs order, meaning that you’ll be liable to pay the other party’s costs, rendering the motivation for your self-representation entirely futile.

Love Family Lawyers offers a multitude of different pricing and payment strategies suitable for most situations. Contact our office on 07 3390 2344 to engage one of our friendly family law solicitors for a no-obligation initial consult, starting at just $99.  Together, we’ll find a solution that works for you and your family.