Representing yourself in court—being a “Pro se” litigant—is a difficult process. Pro se litigants are left to figure out the complexities of court procedures on their own and must follow all rules and statutes as though they were an attorney. In a recent study conducted by the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, researchers found that most pro se litigants know that they are at a disadvantage and have experienced bias against themselves in the court system.
The study interviewed self-represented litigants in family court in counties in Oregon, Colorado, Massachusetts and Tennessee. The researchers spoke with 128 different parties and 49 different court professionals.
The study found that while most pro se litigants wanted legal representation, they were unable to afford it. Very few actually had the resources to hire an attorney but chose instead to represent themselves. Often, pro se litigants made too much money to qualify for legal aid services, but were not financially secure enough to retain their own attorney.
The pro se litigants reported feeling overwhelmed with the multiple different court forms, documents, and paperwork required in a divorce case. They were unsure of how to present their case in court, and did not have a good understanding of the rules for presenting admissible evidence.
Most pro se litigants reported that they attempted to handle their cases themselves through internet research and assistance from court staff. However, workers at the courthouse cannot give legal advice and some staff members are more helpful than others.
Finally, pro se litigants also reported feeling bias against themselves in the courtroom. Many reported that the judge in the case told them that they needed an attorney, and most felt like they were outmatched and bound to lose the case even if the divorce proceedings were relatively civil.
In response to these challenges, some pro se litigants chose to simply give up certain rights rather than battle their way through the court system. As a result, many pro se litigants missed out on the opportunity for additional child support and/or visitation with their children.
Complicated divorce cases that involve children or large amounts of property are next to impossible for the average layman to complete fairly without legal assistance. Before you decide to handle your divorce case on your own, schedule an appointment at Pacific Northwest Family Law. Our attorneys will work with you to make your case as affordable as possible, and will use alternative dispute resolution techniques to solve these problems amicably and avoid running up your costs by fighting every issue in court.
To schedule your consultation, contact Pacific Northwest Family Law today by calling 509-572-3700.