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Caution:  This page contains ONLY GENERAL LEGAL INFORMATION. 
It is NOT LEGAL ADVICE nor a replacement for talking to a lawyer
and getting legal advice about your case.    
The law can be complicated and the details of a case can be even more complicated! 
There are exceptions for every rule. 


What you do not know can harm you.  Do not rely on general legal information.



In my opinion, the biggest challenge a person faces in representing themselves, in a family law case, is relevance.  You can know the facts of a case.  You can know the law.  But you need to understand how the law applies to the facts … what is important to a judge’s decision.


For example, that one spouse committed adultery (which lead to the marriage breakdown) may not be relevant in a court case.  It probably does not help decision issues of parenting, support, or property.  Most divorces are granted based on one year’s separation, so it is not useful there.  Adultery might be relevant to property division, if a large amount of money was spent on the other person.  Adultery might be relevant to parenting if there is inappropriate behavior in front of the child.  But usually, it makes no difference to the decisions that have to be made by a judge.  It may help the judge understand the nature of the breakup but the focus should not be on the adultery.  Sounding like you are stuck on the blame and the anger can hurt your case.


The problem is that, on a personal level, the adultery may be the most important thing.  We want such bad behavior denounced and the person who did it punished.  But the courts are not going to do this.  Many years ago, the law got out of disputes about why relationships broke down.  It only added to the conflict and it did not help create resolutions that worked for the future.


Intimate partner (domestic) abuse is another complicated matter.  It is relevant to parenting because in is often, indirectly, also about how children of the family are treated (abuse of a parent may be seen as abuse of the child).  It may raise issues about the ability of an abuse parent to parent appropriately.  It could cause economic injury to a person that would affect spousal support.  But it is not about punishment.  It is not relevant to all issues.  Not all abuse is the same.  There are limits to its relevance.


Judges make decisions on specified criteria.  The criteria for a particular issue are set out in the law.  They should not consider facts that are not important to the criteria.


In understanding your case, you need to know:

  • the issues,

  • the criteria used to decide each issue,

  • the facts (yours and the other parties) that are relevant, and

  • how you are going to prove the facts.


As an experienced family law lawyer, I would hire another lawyer to represent myself in a family law dispute.  The reason has a lot to do with the emotions.  It is hard to step away, to look at things dispassionately, and to deal with the other person with a focus on resolving the issues before the court.

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