Self-Representation only works on Television - Use Mediation

A recent article in the Globe and Mail shows that more and more people are representing themselves in family court. The increasing practice is taking its toll on the court and the litigants. Judge Harvey Brownstone notes that even people who can afford to hire lawyers are deciding to try their hand at a profession they don't fully understand and it's costing everyone.

A number of television shows such as Judge Judy and People's Court seem to have given people the idea that self-representation is a reasonable and economical option, particularly for family law cases. Judge Brownstone notes that people don't tend to take such chances in criminal court when they may go to prison or lose their liberty, but he points out that family law cases can have serious long-lasting effects for the litigants and their families.

Sometimes people start by representing themselves and then realize they've made a mistake. Retaining a lawyer once the case has started doesn't magically correct the problem. Often the parties are already hostile by the point the lawyer steps in. Instead, having a lawyer from the beginning can keep parties more rational and willing to settle.

The other important point Judge Brownstone makes is that if you represent yourself and you lose and the other party has a lawyer, you'll most likely be paying their legal fees. I strongly recommend avoiding court altogether through mediation (click here).  However, if you are determined to go to court, you might as well pay your own legal bills and not someone else's.

Reference: " 'This is not television,' judge says." The Globe and Mail, May 16, 2007.

Revised March 2015