Family court can be an intimidating and emotionally charged environment, especially when you’re representing yourself without the assistance of an attorney. However, with careful preparation and a clear understanding of the process in Illinois, it is possible to represent yourself in family court, navigate family court effectively, and present your case.
One of the main considerations is cost. Read this article to better understand how much does a family law attorney cost.
Before attempting to represent yourself do some research on your specific circumstances. If your situation seems complicated, then it will likely end up being more complicated during trial. Look around your area for attorneys that are qualified, empathetic, and have experience winning in family court for their clients. An attorney can come in and help at almost any stage of trial but will be able to help most if they are there from the beginning. You can also check out our article titled Family Law vs Divorce in Illinois.
If you still want to represent yourself then keep reading as we will discuss some essential tips on how to represent yourself in family court.
Understand the Laws and Procedures
Familiarize yourself with the laws and procedures relevant to your case. Research the family laws in your jurisdiction (your State and County) and become acquainted with the specific rules and regulations of the family court. This knowledge will help you understand the process and ensure you comply with all necessary requirements.
In Illinois, divorce cases are governed by Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/101). This act has 9 parts and covers almost any issue that would arise during a divorce proceeding. If you look up the statutes governing your issue then this will help you to familiarize yourself with the law and procedures involved. Utilize Google Scholar and other case law search engines to look up cases with facts similar to yours. This will help support your legal arguments.
You can also find videos online that will help you understand these issues. Remember to do diligent research just like a lawyer would do for you. Do not just watch one video or read one statute. Family law can get very complicated. It helps to stay organized with your research.
Regardless of the result, make sure you follow the court’s orders. See what happens if you don’t follow a family court order in Illinois to better understand the concequences.
Organize Your Documents
Gather and organize all relevant documents related to your case. This includes not only research on statutes or cases, but also financial records, child custody agreements, medical reports, and any other evidence supporting your position. Keep copies of all documents and have them arranged in a logical and easily accessible manner. Gathering these documents can be difficult, but through the court you can request documents from the opposing party and subpoena evidence from others to build your case. Check out our soon to be published article entitled “Who Can Be Subpoenaed in a Divorce Case in Illinois?” to learn more.
Label your exhibits clearly and keep them together in a binder or folder. Have a separate section of your binder, or a different folder, for your court documents. The paper adds up fast and it can be easy to misplace a single sheet when you have an entire packet to keep track of.
For more information on this topic check out our soon to be published related articles: “How To Submit Evidence In Family Court” | “Can I Use a Voice Recording as Evidence in Illinois Family Court?“
Develop a comprehensive strategy for presenting your case. Anticipate the arguments and evidence the opposing party may present and prepare counter-arguments and evidence to support your position. Practice presenting your case to gain confidence and become familiar with the facts and evidence you’ll be presenting.
Remember to tell your story with great detail. Sometimes the only evidence the court has on a specific issue is your word against the other party. Present your case in an organized and thorough manner. It can also be helpful to front the bad facts in your case with an explanation. Being truthful and upfront with the exact details of your case can make you appear more trustworthy to the jury or judge.
Maintain a Professional Demeanor
Family court proceedings can be emotionally charged, but it’s crucial to maintain a professional demeanor. Remain calm, respectful, and composed at all times, regardless of any provocative statements or behavior from the opposing party. This will demonstrate your ability to handle the situation maturely and positively influence the court’s perception of you. This is especially important when children are involved as judges must take everything into consideration when making rulings for custody issues.
Present Your Case Clearly and Concisely
When presenting your case, focus on clear and concise communication. Present your arguments in a logical manner, providing detailed but relevant evidence to support each point. Avoid unnecessary emotional appeals and stick to the facts and the law. Remember that the judge needs to understand the important details of your case to make an informed decision.
Practice your statements before going to court. Trials are stressful and it is easier to make mistakes when you are stressed. Practicing will help calm your nerves and help you to present your case as clearly as possible.