Really new to the forums but I want to share some success to encourage all of those who are litigant in person.
There was a hearing at the end of my marriage in 2013 which was scheduled as an FDR. At the time I was really unwell - I have a long standing mental health condition - and did not attend the hearing on the day as the court was 180 miles from where i lived. I was very unwell that day also and one step away from hospital.
Because I did not attend the Judge ruled for the respondent and struck the case out. There was a costs order granted against me too.
Fast forward to 2014 - I was well enough to consider my position and took a free half hour legal advice
at which I was told that it would be unlikelly that i could re-apply for resolution, on the grounds of it being struck out. I researched this and struck out means effectively as though the case had never existed, or deleted.
I decided to submit an application to the original court.
So here is where I will give you some advice!!!
If in a similar situation - i.e. you can''t afford to pay for legal advice - dont be put off. Go away and look terms up e.g. what struck out means in my case. I also found that if I applied for permission to lodge another application to the original court, that as long as that court allows it, that I could lodge a new application at my nearest court.
Second bit of advice....The protocol for this is to submit a form A which is a general application form, cost £50, although I was fee exempt. Keep it simple - "what order are you seeking ?"- Permission to make a new application for financial remedy.
Because I had not attended the original hearing I supplied with the form A medical evidence demonstrating the state of my health and capacity at the time. This was the tricky bit.
Third bit of advice. All forms including fee exemption forms need to be in TRIPLICATE. You dont need to triplicate the evidence but make sure you dot your i''s and cross your t''s, or the admin clerk will send the forms and evidence back. I lost about three months in total as my learning curve - back and forth with paperwork.
For fee exemption you need to fill in quite a long form. Make sure you evidence income with UP TO DATE!!! payslips or benefit letters.
Anyway I was given permission to apply again, by the original court. On the same form I asked for permission to make that application to the court near me. That was granted.
Advice here - the courts send you an order, or send paperwork back to you. Thats pretty much all I heard from them so if you are going backwards and forwards you soon lose track of what stage you are at. I think the thing i learned was dont feel that you are not getting anywhere - the courts correspondence is pretty minimal so no news is good news where applications are concerned. You will soon know whether the judge has granted your applications or not.
So I pick up my story at the point where i have asked the judge at the original court if i can ask a judge at the new court for to hear an application that was struck out at the first court. Complicated eh?
I know my case probably isnt typical but i think what i am getting at is you CAN navigate the waters of self litigation even if you have to jump through hoops to do it. I had no self belief and was intimidated that my ex had full legal counsel.
It doesnt end there though - read on.
So i get an order from the new court that a FDA
(first appointment) is scheduled.
On the same order I am told that the judge will hear the FDA listed for today 15.6.16 but also the Respondents application to strike this new application out. Citing vexation litigation conduct on my part (because the first one was struck out as I did not attend). Just when i think that we can finally just sort things out I have another hurdle.
I had by the way already sent a without prejudice offer to my ex to sort it out by consent order
- he did reply at the time that he wouldn''t negotiate because the matter had been concluded at the 2013 hearing and was struck out.
Advice again!!! Dont be put off by
solicitors telling you what a judge has or has not said. stick to orders and what is on them. I come back to the first point - being struck out is not a conclusion it just means that the FDR had not even existed.
Here I am today - I was in chambers
alone, and outside my ex had his solicitor and barrister
who presented me with their skeleton arguments.
Advice again!!! Prepare your skeleton arguments but keep them to one sheet of paper both sides. Bullet point them and then evidence everything in a bundle for the judge. In my case today the judge had allowed 1 hour pre reading time. I think he appreciated that I had put together things concisely so that way he didn''t have to go back through two bundles of papers. When I was approached by the barrister she presented me with a legal test case telling me "dont worry about having to read this".
Advice again. Give the R''s counsel a skeleton argument. Take no notice of whatever they want to say as this can make you feel that they are in charge. remember - THE JUDGE IS IN CHARGE.
I was expecting an advocate from MIND to be in chambers with me, who did not turn up, so I was very anxious as he was going to support me with corroborating the state of my health, why i was too ill to attend the first hearing (struck out etc), and give me support.
REALLY IMPORTANT thing I learned today - the court staff usher etc were very helpful to both parties. I sent apologies to the judge via the usher who came back saying that the judge knows the advocate had been delayed. That they were trying to
contact him. The judge held back the hearing for 30 minutes.
I decided to go into chambers as not to annoy the judge who had been very patient.
Please all who read this epic take note that the Judge was extremely fair to both parties: he was mindful that I was litigant in person, that I was anxious, had ill health, and that my advocate had not turned up. He said I could have breaks if i needed them, and would explain anything I was unsure about.
This is the best part now so thanks for bearing with me.
R''s counsel cited their "case law" - the document i referred to earlier. I panicked a bit cos i had no clue about the finer points.
Advice again....the judge in this case was fully aware of my ignorance. They dont expect you to know points of
. It was the judge who concerned himself with this after all he is the expert and it was the R''s task to prove their point to strike so there was about 45 mins of the hearing devoted to this. it wasn''t a brilliant 45 minutes for me sat there worried that I could not answer to the points of law but I did feel reassured when the judge was done with them.
I was then invited to put my own points as per my skeleton argument.
Advice.... stick to your script!!! keep calm and just focus on what you want the judge to know. at this stage the R''s barrister is not allowed to ask questions. They tried to introduce things that ought to be left until the FDR, but the judge did not consider these.
The final bit was to deny the appication to strike and to direct for FDR in about 5 weeks time.
I will now prepare the questionnaire arising from the Form E
, and I can object to questions they put on theirs.
I know its not exactly a breeze - in some ways its still ''day one'' but the judge did direct that the old case was now not relevant and that i did not have to pay costs up to the date of the hearing because it was R''s motion to strike which they could have avoided because i had made an offer.
Please feel encouraged by my story. I feel a small victory that I did this under really difficult circumstances, and I will feel a bit more confident that i can cope with the rest of proceedings without paying for counsel.
Ask me any questions you want and i will try to answer.
Good luck and best wishes
Wow! Well done, that is very impressive, and good on you for not giving up.
I''ve stickied the post as Had has requested, so that it will easier for others to find in the future. I also agree that an article for our online Magazine would be a great idea - I will send you a private message about this.
Thank you very much for sharing your experiences with us
Well done for being so brave going to court like that and thank you for sharing your story to help others. I was going to say I enjoyed reading your post, but that''s hardly the right word - however, I was absolutely riveted from the opening sentence to the very end.
Yours has been a remarkable journey and I wish you every success at FDR.
Thank you for taking the time to share your experience and advice. I found your post very encouraging, particularly for those of us who are quite overwhelmed by the whole process. I guess we are stronger than we think. I wish you the very best of luck for your FDR.