Issues and Procedures regarding Pro Se Matters
If you are thinking about handling your legal matter by yourself ("Pro Se"), without an attorney, make sure that you fully understand all of the steps involved. Further, make sure you understand your legal rights. You will be solely responsible for protecting yourself.
Only a licensed attorney is allowed to give you legal advice. Some attorneys may require you to hire them as your personal attorney before they advise you. Other attorneys may allow you to pay for their advice as you need it. Neither the judge, nor any of the courthouse staff, can give you legal advice. You are encouraged to hire a lawyer to protect your rights.
If you choose to begin to represent yourself, but later (1) you find the process too difficult, (2) you realize that you and the opposing party(ies) cannot reach an agreement, (3) the opposing party(ies) has (have) hired an attorney, or (4) you fear for your safety, you may need to employ an attorney to represent you.
A case is "uncontested" when every party has agreed in a written order to all terms and conditions that must be addressed by the Court. With regard to a divorce action, a case is considered "uncontested" when each party has agreed in a written decree on how to divide the property acquired and the debts incurred during the marriage, and all other issues. If children are involved, the decree must include proper agreements regarding conservatorship, possession, support and health care issues.
All final hearings involving uncontested Pro Se matters will usually be conducted on the first (1st) and third (3rd) Wednesday of each month at 1:30 p.m. The Pro Se party(ies) must get prior approval from the Court Coordinator or the Assistant Court Coordinator to be placed on a particular docket. Pro Se dockets fill up quickly, so the earlier you contact the Court Coordinator or the Assistant Court Coordinator, the more likely it will be that you can be placed on a particular docket. Further, the Pro Se party(ies) must have filed all necessary paperwork (including a waiver, a decree, parenting class certificates, and proper notice to the other party(ies), if applicable) with the Montgomery County District Clerk's office before the case will be scheduled to be heard. If a Pro Se party is given a final hearing date on an uncontested docket and (a) the party then fails to appear (without acceptable cause and prior notice to the Court), or (b) the requested relief is not granted because the paperwork is not in the proper fashion, the case will not be given another final hearing date on an uncontested docket but instead will be taken up at the DOCKET CALL-PRETRIAL CONFERENCE.
Please note that in a divorce, the case cannot be finalized if the wife is pregnant at the time of the final hearing .
Additionally, in a divorce, if either party has parented a child with someone other than his or her spouse during the marriage, that child and that other parent must be addressed in a final decree of divorce.
Further, in a divorce, if a child has been the subject of a prior court order, the prior court case must be transferred to this Court and/or consolidated with the divorce case.
The procedures regarding Uncontested Cases (set forth above) do not apply to contested hearings or trials, or matters where a party is represented by counsel.
Suggestions for the Courtroom
- Leave all food, drinks, gum and candy outside of the courtroom.
- Stand and address the Judge as "Your Honor" and answer his or her questions in a truthful and courteous manner.
- Do not lean on any furniture or on the bench when standing before the Judge.
- If you need to speak with someone while you are in the courtroom, speak in a very quiet voice. The Judge must be able to give his or her full attention to the people appearing before the bench.
- Wear appropriate clothing: no shorts, thong sandals, hats, sunglasses, or revealing, dirty or unkempt clothing. All men's shirts must be tucked in.
- Be on time.