12 Tips for Representing Yourself in Court
Authored By: Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA)
Each state has different laws. If you’re going to court somewhere outside of Montana, these tips may not be right for you. You may be able to find free legal help in your state.
Here are 12 tips for representing yourself in court in the State of Montana:
- Show up at least 15 minutes early.
- Dress like you’re going to an important job interview.
- Always address the Judge as “Your Honor” or “Judge.”
- Be respectful to everyone. That includes the other party, Judge, Court staff, and other people in the court.
- Bring the court documents you and the other parent filed. Make sure the Court papers are organized.
- Bring your evidence. Make sure that your evidence is organized so that you can easily find it. You don’t want to make the hearing more stressful if you have to dig through papers. Make sure to have copies ready for yourself, the court and the other side if you want the judge to look at written evidence or pictures.
- Bring an outline of what you want to say. You can also bring questions that you want to ask the other parent.
- Do not bring your children unless the Court has ordered the children to be there.
- Wait your turn to speak. You do not want to interrupt the other parent and especially the Judge.
- Speak clearly when it is your time. Make sure the Judge and other parent can understand you. You won’t get what you want if the Judge cannot understand or hear you.
- Ask questions. If you do not understand something, you have the right to ask for more information so that you understand. Just remember to be respectful, as hearings can be stressful.
- Make sure you understand what to do next before you leave.
Follow all Court Orders. The Judge may give you verbal orders during the hearing. You must follow those. A Judge may also issue written orders throughout the case. You’ll need to follow those as well. The Clerk of Court will mail you the Judge’s written orders at the address they have on file for you.
If you are confused on what exactly the Judge has ordered during a hearing, it is a good idea ask for clarification. If you are having a hard time understanding a Judge’s written orders, you’ll want to have a lawyer look them over.
- The Montana State Bar Lawyer Referral Service may provide you with contact information for attorneys who provide the type of assistance you are seeking, for a fee. You can contact the State Bar Lawyer Referral Service at (406) 449-6577 or montanabar.org.
- Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) provides free civil, non-criminal legal help to eligible clients in Montana. Learn more about how to apply for free legal help in Montana.
- If you qualify for help from MLSA, you may be able to get free legal advice by email from a volunteer attorney using Ask Karla.
You can search for free court forms by legal problem.