Self Represented Litigants (SRLs) come from all walks of life, economic status, and motivations. Why be a SRL? The choice could stem from issues with the cost of legal representation and not qualifying to get Legal Aid, having past bad experiences with lawyers, not being able to find a lawyer that you trust, or of course, you may just have confidence in yourself and your ability to do it yourself.
Whatever your path to be a SRL, the important thing to know is that while it can be scary and uncertain, it doesn’t mean you must be completely on your own.
A few things to keep in mind when you’re a SRL;
- SRLs are said to have a bad reputation in the eyes of the court and lawyers. They don’t know the law, proper procedures, or lingo of the court and that can slow down the process
- SRLs are sometimes seen by lawyers as self deluded and pursuing the need to be “right”, SRLs are certainly seen as a frustration
- SRLs could potentially lose their case because of a lack of understanding and procedural errors
- Advice from veteran SRLs. While they may have some practical experience to share with you, their case isn’t yours and the circumstances, lawyers, judges, etc. will be different
- As an SRL, lawyers are not your only source of professional information and support. Some lawyers may be happy to work on a fee for service model and be part of a team
While this process of being a SRL is scary, frustrating and can cause stress, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. There are a number resources out there to help you be more successful.
A lot of information is available online as I’m sure you know. This includes information created by the government, lawyers, the National Self Represented Litigants Project, and blogs created by individuals that have gone through the process. At times it may seem like there is too much information and that in itself is can be confusing.
While many of these sites provide valuable information, you may not see them applying directly to your particular case or circumstance.
A more targeted route you can take is to work with a separation/divorce coach to help you through your separation process. Separation/Divorce coaches can help support you with no nonsense information and practical advice. Although, not created equal, look for a coach who can:
- Help get your financials in order and complete your financial disclosure. This is the backbone of your financial decisions about the house, equalization, child support and spousal support.
- If you have children, a coach can help you develop a proposed parenting plan or review one prepared by your ex spouse.
- Ask the real questions. What are you hoping to achieve? Are you being reasonable? Are your needs achievable and realistic?
- Assist with communication during this stressful time. Coaches can vet or prepare communications for you. It’s important to be clear and concise, sometimes emotions can get in the way.
- A properly trained coach can review settlement offers with you and look at the consequences of them while helping you create counter proposals.
A coach can also support you through many challenges you’re going to face. Not emotional support that a counsellor would provide but real life, practical support related to your specific situation.
As a SRL, you may face times where you feel like giving up, your coach can help you stay focused and teach you to pick your battles.
At times, you may feel bullied, your coach can help remind you why you’re doing this and to stay empowered.
Also, as the process drags on (as it has a tendency to do), the coach can give you reality checks to keep you on track and moving forward.
At the end of the day, a coach should provide the support you need, whether you know you need it or not.
Having a coach as a member of your separation team can’t guarantee success for you, but it will put you in the best possible position, next to full legal representation. And the best part? You don’t need to go through this alone!