Top tips for representing yourself in court as a Litigant in Person

Representing yourself in court without a lawyer can be a difficult and stressful process. Here are some top tips from our Litigants in Person committee.


  • Keep a full set (either electronic or paper depending on preference) of all correspondence and documents on your case.  A well-ordered ‘file’ from commencement of the case will stand you in good stead going forward.
  • While your ex-partner’s lawyer will endeavour to explain things in plain English, familiarise yourself with some of the terminology that you are most likely to encounter. We have produced a glossary of legal terms to help you.
  • Treat your ex-partner’s lawyer (and their staff) with respect and courtesy. Remember, they are only doing their job!  Do not be offended if they ask you to put your position in writing.  This often minimises the risk of being misunderstood.  It is recommended that you read the guidance notes produced by the Law Society for those representing themselves, this provides guidance on what you can and should not expect from your ex-partner’s lawyer.
  • Notify your ex-partner’s lawyer and the court (if there are court proceedings) if you have any health or social barriers that would impact upon your ability to communicate or upon taking part in court proceedings, attending court (remotely or in person) eg language, inability to read or write, physical disability or a mental health condition. Courts now largely deal with court papers electronically so if you don’t have access to a computer or lap top notify your ex-partner’s lawyer so that they are aware that they may need to provide you with paper copies of documents.
  • If you fail to comply with court orders then the court may penalise you, therefore if you cannot comply with a court directed deadline, let the court and your ex-partner’s lawyer know as soon as possible and explain why. Provide details of the steps you have taken to comply. When informing your ex-partner’s lawyer let them know when you anticipate being in a position to comply and seek to agree an extension wherever possible.
  • If you are writing to the court or to any agreed/court appointed expert that may be providing a report in your case, remember to send a copy of the letter or document to your ex-partner’s solicitors. Once solicitors are instructed, only communicate with the lawyer about the case, not your ex-partner.
  • Don’t forget you can ask for representation at any stage of your case on a discrete point or generally. If you instruct a barrister under the Direct Access Scheme, make sure you give them all  information relevant to your case with plenty of time before the hearing.

At court

  • Every court is different and may adopt a slightly different procedure. If in doubt, ask the court staff, although they cannot give you legal advice.
  • Notify the court in advance if you have any practical barriers to participate in the proceedings, eg difficulty attending in-person hearings.
  • Hearings may be ‘in person’ where both parites are required to be physically present at court or they will be ‘remote’ which means they will be conducted by telephone or via video link.
  • If the hearing is ‘remote’, you should:
    • Notify the court of any lack of technology or privacy issues.
    • Ensure that you have provided the court with your contact details to enable you to take part in the hearing and/or confirm these to your ex-partner’s lawyer for them to provide the court on behalf of the parties.  Do not however assume that they will do this on your behalf.
    • In advance of the hearing, make sure that you have received a link to join the hearing and, if you are concerned that you have not, let the court and your ex-partner’s lawyer know. Note that very often the link is not shared until shortly before the hearing is due to begin.
    • In advance of a hearing, the court will often send a ‘test link’ and it is a very good idea to take the time to test this and make sure the device you are using allows you to join.
    • Read our guidance on representing yourself in a remote hearing.
  • If the hearing is  in-person hearing, ensure you arrive early to give yourself time to familiarise yourself with the building and find out where you need to be for your hearing. Check in with the usher on arrival and complete the sign in sheet. If you manage to find a free consultation room, note down the number of the room on the sign in sheet so people know where to find you.
  • If you do not attend a hearing, whether held remotely or in-person, orders can be made in your absence.
  • Consider taking a friend with you to court for moral support. However, you will need to check with the court if they can come into the hearing with you.
  • Do not interrupt the judge during the hearing. The judge will give you a chance to speak.
  • Make the court and/or your ex-partner’s lawyer aware of any religious considerations, for example religious festivals; or any medical issues to be taken into account when the court lists future hearing dates.
  • Ensure you understand any order made at court. If you have been ordered to do something in an order, you must comply with the order, otherwise the court may penalise you. If you do not understand the directions and/or order being made, ask the judge during the hearing to explain it. There may also be a free advice facility at the court such as the Support Through Court or Citizens Advice who can provide assistance in explaining your court order and what you must do next.
  • After the hearing and the order is made ask for a copy of the draft order that will be prepared by your ex-partner’s lawyer and sent to the judge for their approval. Make a note of any deadlines as it may take the court some time to send out the approved order to all parties.

If you are represented but your ex-partner is not

If you have a lawyer but your ex-partner is unrepresented in court, it is important that your lawyer treats your ex-partner with respect and sometimes they may need to provide assistance. This will help you in the long-term and here are some reasons why:

  • Your lawyer must treat your ex-partner with respect. Not doing so, will only inflame the situation and make it harder to reach an agreement.
  • While they are acting for you, your lawyer has a duty to be courteous and respectful to your ex-partner if they are acting in person and to respond to their communication as appropriate.
  • There may be more work involved in court proceedings and the court will expect the lawyer to take the lead (preparing bundles, instructing experts, etc.). This is more likely to save costs in the long run.
  • You may think your lawyer is being overly helpful by assisting your ex-partner, but not doing so will cause delays which will ultimately increase your cost. Your lawyer isn’t advising them but is trying to save you time and money in the long run.
  • The judge may appear to give your ex-partner more court time than you and your lawyer and seem overly helpful when addressing your ex-partner. They are not “taking their side” but are trying to make the best of the  time spent at court.  By encouraging your ex-partner to co-operate, the judge is minimising the risk of them feeling intimidated or “ganged up on” which could lead to them becoming defensive and further entrenched in their position.