Self-representation

What is self-representation ?

In New Zealand Family Court, people have the option not to hire a lawyer to complete many court proceedings under the jurisdiction of the family court. 

The courts allow you to represent yourself. But you do need to follow a very precise and specific procedures according to the Family Court and District court Rules and the Evidence Act 2006. 

FDSS McKenzie Friends are happy to help you and guide you the process of representing yourself in the family court. If you are thinking to represent yourself in the family court, please complete this online form or contact us if you have any further enquiries. 

Representing yourself and handling all of the court proceedings paperwork and processing through the courts can be very difficult and frustrating. The courts can provide only the slightest of help and are legally prevented from providing most any type of assistance – as this likely could be deemed “legal advice”. Only licensed lawyers can provide such advice, and legal fees can be very costly for such advice. There is also no guarantee that you will do this cumbersome and time-consuming process correctly – and if it is not done correctly, the courts may dismiss your case completely and in many cases you might be directed by the courts to pay the other party legal fees (costs order), if your application was unsuccessful or if you do not follow the rules and correct procedures or if the Judge believes that you have acted irresponsibly or if you have initiated any proceedings or interlocutory matters contrary to the best interests of the concerned child or the respondent. 

What’s involved in self-representation ?

If you want to represent yourself, you will be required to complete the same steps as lawyers, such as the writing and filing of applications and pleadings that use suitable wording and legal references. The general steps in the litigation process that you will need to complete (amongst others) are outlined as below:

Preparation

• Identifying and understanding the applicable law;
• Accessing legal resources for research purposes (including case law and legislation);
• Identifying and completing the relevant forms to be filed with the court;
• Preparing evidence, including written briefs of evidence or affidavits; and memoranda’s
• Applying the law to the facts in written submissions.

The hearing

• Adhering to courtroom etiquette;
• Presenting the facts to the court through oral examination of witnesses, cross-examination and presenting exhibits;
• Making legal submissions to the court, with reference to relevant legal principles, statutes and case law; and
• Complying with court directions and orders.

The failure to properly understand court processes and procedures can lead you to make costly mistakes such as presenting irrelevant and unnecessary material, not being aware of options when making pleas, and making errors when writing and filing documents. It can also lead to unnecessary stress and frustration.