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Representing Yourself

Pro Per Clinic Now Offering Workshops - Effective January 6, 2011
Centro De Auto Ayuda Ahora Ofreciendo Talleres - Empezando Enero 6, 2011

It is wiser to be represented by an attorney in any court proceeding. Family Law proceedings, especially, have long-term consequences that you may not be aware of in the beginning. The initial expense saved may turn out to be very expensive in the future. The judges and clerks are prohibited by law from giving you legal advice. If you do decide to represent yourself, here are some suggestions.

Even if you decide to represent yourself, you may want to get preliminary legal advice from a lawyer to help you understand the legal issues and make the right decisions about your case.

A brochure listing low-cost and no-cost legal services in San Joaquin County is available in the Clerk's office. A Lawyer Referral Service is available through the San Joaquin County Bar Association.

The Family Law Pro Per Clinic is held in the Stockton Annex Courthouse, located at 540 E. Main Street, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Staff can help you with your court forms. They will help you understand domestic violence restraining orders, child custody and visitation, and child and spousal support issues, but they cannot give you legal advice.

When you come to the clinic, or to appear in court, bring a copy of all documents relating to your case. You should include income and expense information, your last three paycheck stubs, and your last tax return.

The court clerks cannot give you legal advice or make a recommendation about your case. They will help you in any way they can with questions such as:

  • What it costs to file your papers
  • When and where your hearing is scheduled
  • Whether the Commissioner or Judge has decided your case

Be on time for all court appearances and scheduled appointments. If you are late, your case could be postponed or the judge could rule against you.

Dress for court appearances as you wish to be treated - professional to professional. Do not wear shorts or tank tops.

Do not bring children to court.

Be prepared to tell the judge or commissioner at the outset what you want to accomplish that day. Be prepared to present your side to the judge or commissioner making the best use of your time to speak. Talk about the most important things first.

You should speak directly to the judge or commissioner when court is in session and your case is called. Do not direct your comments to or argue with the other party.

The judge or commissioner cannot speak to you about your case except in court or when both parties are present.

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