Sometimes the best way to learn is from the mistakes made by others. With separation, divorces and custody battles being so common, it is wise to be educated on the mishaps of previous cases to ensure you can do what you can to avoid facing the same downfalls.
Superior Court trials in Family Court are governed by a variety of rules which are designed to ensure trials are run at a cost efficient level. When self-represented parties struggle with the complex legal procedures and rules of Family Law, the evidence and facts can become incongruous, unwieldly, inchoate and at times just plain difficult for any reader to follow.
In Ontario case De Cruz-Lee v. Lee, the judge ended the ruling’s de facto prologue by acknowledging the wife in the matter was poorly represented and as a result, the judge would make allowance for that in the decision making. Ultimately, the judge went on to make a fair and impartial ruling in the case and Justice had been done. However, it is still puzzling and regrettable that a litigant would choose to put themselves in such an obvious dis-advantage in what are no doubt, very important legal proceedings. For full text of the decisions, see: De Cruz-Lee v. Lee, 2015 ONSC 1900 (CanLII)
There are various examples that illustrate how a litigant’s outcome in court can potentially be hampered by the decision to not have competent legal representation and it is often the self-represented party’s unfamiliarity with legal procedure that unwittingly deprives them of the opportunity to assert their rights and put forward helpful evidence at the appropriate procedural juncture.
While it may be true that judges do not expect self-represented parties to have the same knowledge and familiarity with the law that lawyers do, if an individual plans to stand in for a lawyer on their own matter, they are expected to act like one.