Just thought I'd report on how well things can sometimes go representing yourself - I had a final hearing on child arrangements recently, my ex was represented by a distinguished QC and partner instructing solicitor and team; I was self-representing. The Cafcass S7 report had recommended in my favour prior to the hearing, and on the day the court went entirely with my position. This is the culmination of five years of battling in court, with us ending up with what we should have started with after separation. Never give up!
1. Keep it positive - the court weren't interested in any tit for tat or hearing things that were already in the witness statements. I had prepared a detailed cross-examination plan but had 'graded' my questions as to how positive they were so I could judge the mood in court and adapt accordingly.
2. Don't worry about not being represented - no one knows your case better than you. I was cross-examined by the QC but they got nowhere - every angle they tried I could reel off the reality with supporting examples.
3. Understand that there is a lot of luck in the family courts - you can end up with an incompetent judge who is a complete **** with unbelievable outdated personal views on how things should be, or you could by chance be in the next courtroom with someone competent and fair. The system isn't outcome-based, there's no analysis of what tends to work feeding back to the judges, they just make it up as they go along. Accept this and try to make the best of it.
4. CAFCASS - it is critical to get them on side - court are likely to go with their recommendations. Generally their investigations are very lightweight (some might say 'sloppy') so there's luck involved here in getting one of the few competent FCAs, but in particular don't be fobbed off with a 30 minute interview - push to spend time to properly go through matters, get it in writing and surreptitiously record all meetings on your phone - you won't be able to use it (and do not say you are doing it) but it will be helpful for you to refer back to it later on.
5. You really have to make sure everything you need is locked down before court is dismissed - I've suffered lots of post-court sneaky action - trying to rework what was ordered after the event.
6. Prepare prepare prepare - I spent a huge amount of time getting my statements right, positive, readable and logical. I'd drafted planned speeches (opening, submissions etc), questions etc. I probably used 5% of it or less, but having it all there helped me hugely, both beforehand and during the hearing.
7. Spend time on Wikivorce! This site is a great resource, with some amazing smart, generous and helpful contributors, including in particular RubyTuesday, Hadenoughnow, .Sylvia and Charles, many thanks all of you. Read, learn, post asking for help and give back!