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Using this Website to Represent Yourself

This website offers resources to help you learn about the law. It also contains resources to help you represent yourself in court. The information should not be substituted for legal advice. It is usually best to have an attorney represent you if you can. However, we hope that if you decide to represent yourself, the resources you find on this website will help you. We welcome any suggestions about how to make the website easier to use. Contact us here.

Having an Attorney Represent You

To understand what it means to represent yourself, it is a good idea to first understand what it means to have an attorney represent you. When you agree to have an attorney help you with a legal problem, you sign a special contract with that attorney. That contract gives the attorney the power to do things for you on your behalf (represent you).  Because laws are often complicated and confusing, it is usually a good idea to have an attorney represent you, especially if you are going to court.

When You are Entitled to Have an Attorney Represent You

  • Criminal Cases. If you are facing certain types of more serious criminal charges in New Jersey, and you are not able to afford an attorney, the court must provide you with a public defender. A public defender is a state attorney assigned to represent defendants in criminal cases at no charge.
     
  • Child Abuse and Neglect Cases. New Jersey parents facing claims in a civil case of having abused or neglected their child(ren) are also entitled to an appointed attorney if they cannot afford one. They will be assigned an attorney from the special parental representation unit of the public defender’s office.
     
  • Termination of Parental Right Cases. New Jersey parents facing the possibility of losing their parental rights in a civil termination of parental rights case are also entitled to an appointed attorney if they cannot afford one. They will be assigned an attorney from the special parental representation unit of the public defender’s office.

For most other kinds of non-serious civil legal problems, you may act as your own attorney.

Representing Yourself

If you decide not to go to an attorney, you may bring your case to court without an attorney. If you do this, you are representing yourself and acting as your own attorney. Except for a few specific kinds of legal cases, you are not required by law to have an attorney represent you in order to go to court for legal relief.

Important Things to Remember If You Represent Yourself 

  • Read all Court Papers. Read all papers from the court as soon as you receive them. Make sure that you understand them. This will help you know what you need to do and when you need to do it. This will also help you keep up with deadlines. If you miss a deadline, the court may dismiss your case before it even makes a decision.

  • Read All Other Legal Papers: Read all papers from your adversary (the person on the other side of your case) or from your adversary’s attorney as soon as you receive them. Make sure you understand them. This will also help you keep up with deadlines.

  • Don’t Miss a Court Date: Contact the court if you have to miss a scheduled court date. Not appearing in court when you have been summoned to appear may lead to more serious legal problems.
4/24/2017