Not everyone can afford to hire a lawyer. Most people are not experienced in navigating the court system and many people make mistakes in the process. These are the most common mistakes people make when representing themselves in family law matters:
Poorly Prepared Documents
Court documents are often prepared incorrectly, have insufficient, outdated, or irrelevant information to support the relief sought. For example, a self-represented party seeking a reduction of child support payable may fail to provide the financial disclosure or information needed to demonstrate financial hardship or that there was a change in their financial situation.
Self-represented parties tend to miss deadlines. A self-represented party may fail to provide financial disclosure or to meet filing deadlines despite the direction of the court. A self-represented party should communicate with the other party or their lawyer if more time is needed to meet a deadline before the deadline has passed.
Refusing to Communicate with the Other Lawyer
Self-represented parties tend to ignore correspondence from an opposing counsel because they are paranoid and untrusting of the other lawyer. Self-represented parties may flat out refusal to communicate on any issue that could have been resolved without court intervention.
Demanding Advice from the Other Lawyer
Self-represented parties will sometimes harass the opposing counsel and their staff for legal advice or procedural information instead of finding their own legal counsel. A lawyer cannot provide advice to opposing parties as their role is to act solely in interest of their client.
Attempting to Persuade the Other Lawyer
Self-represented parties may provide more information than necessary to the other lawyer to try and convince the lawyer that their client sucks. Unfortunately, these efforts usually do more harm than good. A self-represented party may appear crazy and unreasonable in these situations.
Bullying and Retaliation
Self-represented parties sometimes attempt to bully the other party or their counsel. Such tactics include name calling, intimidation, harassment, or leaving poor reviews or negative comments online. These tactics can backfire and shift the attention away from the initial issue and result in orders against the self-represented party to prohibit further inappropriate conduct.
If you are self-represented because you cannot afford a lawyer, you may have other options. These tips can help you navigate your situation:
Apply for Legal Aid
If you are unable to afford a lawyer because you are low income, you should apply for Legal Aid coverage. If you are approved, Legal Aid will assign a lawyer to represent you with your matter. The lawyer will bill Legal Aid for their work done then you repay Legal Aid a small monthly fee until the balance is paid in full. You can apply for Legal Aid (Alberta) over the phone: 1-866-845-3425.
Limited Scope Retainers
Some lawyers are willing to work on a limited scope retainer. This means that the lawyer is only hired to provide legal advice or to draft and review documents while you represent yourself.
Hire an Independent Paralegal
Paralegals cannot give Legal Advice. An experienced family law paralegal can help prepare your court documents and provide you with procedural information. Paralegal services are the most cost-effective solution for self-represented parties.