For any person intending to represent themself in a family law case (you will be called a “pro se” litigant—Latin for “in one’s own behalf”), the tasks necessary to move your case through the process can seem overwhelming. Often, while working with pro se clinics or on attorney call-in lines, I am asked to provide advice on how someone should proceed to represent themselves. What should I do first? Then what?
After decades of observing what does and does not work and knowing how complex taking on this task can be, here are two pieces of advice that I believe will make the life of any pro se litigant in a family law case much easier:
Number 1) Sign up for e-filing with the Court
Number 2) Get a printer for your computer, if possible
NUMBER 1: Signing up for Colorado Courts E-Filing
E-filing makes your life as a pro se litigant so much easier. From your desktop or laptop computer—even from your phone—you can file documents into your case and have them automatically sent to the opposing party as required. Anything downloaded in your computer can be uploaded to the Court and “filed” as of the moment you click on the “File” button. No longer will you have to drive to the Courthouse, pay for parking, go through security, file your documents with copies for the opposing party, mail the copy to the opposing party or attorney, etc. Instead, you can scan and upload and file documents in your case without leaving your chair at home. Anytime you need to see what has been filed in your case, just click on the “Register of Actions” and everything ever filed by anyone in your case, will be pulled up chronologically.
Here are the steps to sign up for e-filing:
- Go to the Colorado Judicial Branch website.
- On the black ribbon across the top of the page, go to “Administration” on the right.
- On the dropdown menu click on “Information Technology Services” and it will bring you to that page.
- On the “Information Technology Services” page, on the left side vertical black column, click on “E-filing for Non-Attorneys”.
On this page you can create an account, receive instructions for how to sign up, learn what to do after you have signed up and learn how to file from your home computer into the Court filing system any document you wish to file in your case.
Once you start e-filing, you will not go back. Especially for busy or mobility challenged litigants, e-filing is a game changer. Special pricing for pro se litigants meeting low income guidelines is available.
NUMBER 2: Buy a Printer for Your Computer, if Possible
I know tech savvy readers will consider me a dinosaur for this recommendation (and, yes, I am a dinosaur), but hear me out. Without the ability to print from your computer, you will not be able to effectively create or present exhibits for your case when you go to Court. While Webex allowed video hearings during COVID outbreaks, more Judges are returning to live, in person courtroom Hearings. For these, you must have paper Exhibits. A Judge will not look at a cell phone or screen in your hand to see an exhibit during your Hearing. If your Hearing is held live in a courtroom, your exhibits must be on paper.
Exhibits must be properly marked (with numbers 1, 2, 3, etc. for Petitioners and letters A, B, C, etc. for Respondents). Exhibits must be filed with the Court 7 days before your Hearing if your hearing is by Webex. If your Hearing is in person in the courtroom, you must send your Exhibits, properly marked, to the opposing party 7 days before your Hearing. This can be done through e-filing’s “Serve Only” function or you can file the Exhibits and have them sent automatically to the opposing party.
When you appear in Court on the day of your Hearing, you must have 4 copies of each exhibit in paper form, properly marked. One copy is for you to have when you are questioning the witness. One copy is for the witness up on the witness stand. One copy is for the opposing party or opposing attorney and the final copy is a courtesy copy for the Judge—in case the Judge wants to follow along with the questioning. If you have multiple Exhibits, you can put them in a notebook—called an Exhibit book and bring 4 Exhibit Books to Court. That way you can ask your witness to simply turn a page–for example, “please turn to Exhibit M…” rather than having to approach the witness, the Judge, the opposing party or attorney with another paper Exhibit each time.
These suggestions may not cause you to win your family law case; but they will give you an edge in knowing what is happening at all times and in properly and legally conveying your message to the Judge through the proof in your case—your Exhibits. Don’t want to represent yourself? Call Jeanne M Wilson today!