Appearing In Family Court


This will be a series of brief essays on some things to think about when appearing in family court without an attorney. Estimates are that 67% of family law litigants represent themselves (self-represented litigant or “SFL”). This series was written with the SFL in mind.

First, some street cred. I have been an attorney for 32 years, all in San Diego. I have conducted or consulted with over 100 jury trials and hundreds of other hearings over the years. I have represented a wide range of clients in family law cases, so I am familiar with all the common issues. I have a great feel for what judges do and do not want to hear.

Second, a caveat: none of this should be construed as “legal advice” for any particular matter

Limited Time. The most important thing is to be aware of the limited time you will have to present your case. There are way too many cases and not enough judges to hear them so time is of the essence. Staying focused on what the hearing is about, limiting your presentation to that is a key to success.

This is much easier advice to give than to take. Everybody wants the judge to know “everything” about their case. While most judges really care about what they are doing, they do not have the time, energy or inclination to hear about “everything.” Be prepared, keep it short, stick to your plan. If you do these things, you will be way ahead of almost everyone else there, including some of the attorneys

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