Things to Think About Before You Represent Yourself in Court

Undisputed Legal | Process Service

The court system can be confusing and it is a good idea to get a lawyer if you can. The law, the proofs necessary to present your case, and the procedural rules governing cases in the Law Division, Civil Part are complex. Since valuable claims or potentially heavy judgments may be at stake, most litigants appearing in the Law Division, Civil Part has a lawyer. If you are being sued, please contact your insurance company to see if they might provide a lawyer for you. Most likely your opponent will be represented by a lawyer. It is recommended that you make every effort to obtain the assistance of a lawyer. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you may contact the legal services program in your county to see if you qualify for free legal services. The telephone number can be found online or in your local yellow pages under “Legal Aid” or “Legal Services.”

If you do not qualify for free legal services and need help in locating an attorney, you can contact the bar association in your county. That number can also be found in your local yellow pages. Most county bar associations have a Lawyer Referral Service. The County Bar Lawyer Referral Service can supply you with the names of attorneys in your area willing to handle your particular type of case and will sometimes consult with you at a reduced fee. There are also organizations of minority lawyers throughout New Jersey, as well as organizations of lawyers who handle specialized types of cases. Ask your county court staff for a list of lawyer referral services that include these organizations.

If you decide to proceed without an attorney, these materials explain the procedures that must be followed to have your papers properly filed and considered by the court. These materials do not provide information on the law governing your claims or defenses; information on how to conduct pretrial discovery; information on alternative dispute resolution procedures, such as arbitration or mediation, that may be available or required in your case; information on the kinds of evidence you need to prove your claims or defense at trial; or information on other procedural and evidentiary rules governing civil lawsuits.

What You Should Expect If You Represent Yourself

While you have the right to represent yourself in court, you should not expect special treatment, help, or attention from the court. The following is a list of some things court staff can and cannot do for you. Please read it carefully before asking the court staff for help.

• They can explain and answer questions about how the court works.

• They can tell you what the requirements are to have your case considered by the court.

• They can give you some information from your case file.

• They can provide you with samples of court forms that are available.

• They can provide you with guidance on how to fill out forms.

• They can usually answer questions about court deadlines.

• They cannot give you legal advice. Only your lawyer can give you legal advice.

• They cannot tell you whether or not you should bring your case to court.

• They cannot give you an opinion about what will happen if you bring your case to court.

• They cannot recommend a lawyer, but we can provide you with the telephone number of a local lawyer referral service.

• They cannot talk to the judge for you about what will happen in your case.

  • They cannot let you talk to the judge outside of court. • 
  • They cannot change an order issued by a judge.

Keep Copies of All Papers

Make and keep copies of all completed forms and documents related to your case.

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