What You Need To Know About Representing Yourself
Your have a right to
represent yourself ( appear “pro se”) in any kind of legal
case. You will be expected to know and follow the rules just as
lawyers are expected to follow the rules. If you do not follow
the rules that apply in your case, the court may not be allowed to give
you what you want, even if it makes sense.
Before you decide to
represent yourself, ask yourself whether it wouldn’t be better
use of your time and money to consult with or hire an attorney who
knows the law and can give you advice about what to do, how to do it,
and what your chances are of getting what you want.
What you have seen on TV and
in the movies is not real. Even if it is called "real TV." You
must dress and behave appropriately.
Coming to court and asking a
judge or magistrate to make decisions about your life is one way to
resolve disputes; this is called litigation. However, this is not
the only way to resolve disputes. ADR is often less expensive and
less time-consuming, and it gives you more control over your
life. Sometimes the court will order you to try ADR (mediation
and arbitration are just two types) before you can litigate your case.
You and the other party know
your lives/children/the facts of your case better than anyone
else. You can be creative and flexible in making your own
agreements; the court can only do what the law allows. You and
the other party will be happier with agreements you make yourself, and
therefore more likely to comply with them than with decisions made for
you by the court.
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If you do decide to go to
court, filing your motion or petition is just the first step. In
order to get what you want from the court, you may need to schedule a
hearing or conference, make efforts to resolve the problem without the
court, and file additional documents.
You will need to fill out
paper work. You can get forms from the court (usually for a
small fee) or the Judicial Branch website ( www.courts.state.co.us
). Read all the court papers and instructions. There may be
a fee to file a motion or a petition.
WHEN YOU VISIT THE
CLERK’S OFFICE TO FILE YOUR PAPERWORK, REMEMBER:
- It is up to you to know
what you want.
- You can handwrite or type
your information, but your documents must be complete and
legible. When completing a multi-part form press firmly
- By law, the court staff
cannot fill out forms for you
- Some courts may have
additional filing requirements that may mean another trip to the
- Keep your composure; the
court staff is there to help you as much as they are allowed.
- The paperwork you file is
your only means of communicating with the court and the judge or
magistrate. Direct contact with the judge or magistrate is not
You will have to share.
You must give everyone in the case copies of everything you file with
the court. You must also submit a written form to the court identifying
when and how you did so. This is called a Certificate of
Mailing. You should keep a copy of everything you file with the
court. You will need to work with the other person, any
attorneys, and the court to schedule hearings and conferences, and give
written notice, so all can be present.
Being organized will
help. What do you want? Why should you get what you
want? The court has limited time to hear any case and must adhere
to a strict schedule. If you do not make your points in the
allotted time, you will not get another chance.
Be prepared. Visit
the Justice Center ahead of time, if possible, so you are comfortable
with the location and setup. Get your documents and evidence
prepared and copied – one copy for yourself, one for the court,
and one for the opposing party. Subpoena your witnesses, if
necessary, and arrange for them to be at the right place at the right
time. Make notes of the questions you will want to ask the
Arrive early, with
everything you need. Give yourself enough time for traffic
and unexpected events. If you are not there on time, your case
may be dismissed, you might lose, or it may be months before you have
another chance to tell the court what you want. Keep your
paperwork in order and have your copies with you when you come to court
- they will not do you any good in the car or on the kitchen counter.
Know your case number.
Be sure to have your case number available always; you will be asked
for it every time you contact the court. Court staff will not be
able to give you the help you need if you do not have your case number.
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No one in the Justice Center
is allowed to give you legal advice, although court staff may be able
to answer questions about forms and rules. .
The Colorado Revised
Statutes (the laws) and court rules are available in print in the
reference section of any public library. The Judicial Branch
website also has a link to the online statutes and rules; (www.courts.state.co.us )
Certain behaviors are
required while you are in court. This behavior is either
necessary to manage cases or is considered respectful of the court.
If you have a cell phone,
turn it off before entering the courtroom, and before you begin a
status conference of any kind.
Enter and leave the
courtroom quietly, so you do not disturb others.
Stand when the judge or
magistrate enters the courtroom, and when you speak to the judge or
Address the judge or
magistrate as “Your Honor”
You will be expected to
treat others in the court respectfully. It is respectful to
address others as “Mr.” or “Ms.” Or ma’am
or sir. It is not respectful to yell, curse, or cut someone off
when they are speaking.
Speak clearly and
slowly. Your words are being recorded, either by a machine or a
person. If you mumble, speak too quickly, too softly, or answer
by shaking or nodding your head, the record will not be accurate.
Please ask questions
if you do not understand something or are confused about what you are
required to do.
Appropriate dress is
required in the courtroom. You do not need to “dress
up,” but it is important to dress nicely and with respect for the
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