Self-Represented Parties

Self-Representation Process

Self-represented parties are referred to as pro se parties in the legal system.  If you have decided to act as your own attorney, you will be responsible for preparing and filing your own paperwork, and advocating for yourself in the courtroom.  Before you begin the process of initiating a new case or re-opening an old case, you must determine what type of action to file. 

Once you have decided what type of case to file, you will begin the process of opening or re-opening your case:

    First, complete all of the paperwork required for your action.  The DR Court has pre-prepared forms available for the most common types of actions.  Visit Forms to view available paperwork.  If you do not see paperwork that fits your needs, you will be required to draft your own.  If completing paperwork by hand, use blue or black ink and print legibly.  Paperwork will be rejected if it is written in pencil, other colored ink, or is illegible.  
         
        Note:
     
    Commercially prepared documents from websites such as LegalZoom are   
        used at your own risk.  Commercially prepared documents found on the Internet
        can be expensive, and are not guaranteed approved for filing in this Court.  Please
        carefully review any guarantees, disclaimers, and refund policies from the vendor if
        you choose to use these forms.   
    Second, submit your paperwork to the Compliance Department for review.  The Compliance Department must review all pro se paperwork for completeness before it can be approved for filing.  Your paperwork can be dropped off in person to the DR Courthouse or sent via regular mail or email.  Your paperwork will be reviewed in the order in which it was received.  You will be contacted by Compliance after the review is complete and given your next steps.  In the majority of cases, revisions are needed.  The Compliance Department will flag any mistakes or missing information but will not correct paperwork on your behalf or help you fill it out.  Once the revisions are made, the paperwork should be turned in again for further review.  The review and revision process will continue until Compliance approves your paperwork.  Once approved, you are responsible for making all required copies and paying the filing fee for your action.     
    Third, pay the filing fee and any additional fees for service (if needed).  The Fee Schedule details all initial costs that must be paid.  Payment should be made with the Greene County Clerk of Courts located at 45 N. Detroit Street, Xenia, OH  45385.  The Clerk accepts personal check from Ohio banks, cash, money order, or certified check.  For more information on payment, please contact the Clerk at (937) 562-5290.  Once payment is received, the Clerk with either open a new case and assign a case number, or re-open your old case and reactivate your old case number.  The Clerk will then attempt to serve the opposing party according to the Instructions you provided with your paperwork. 

    Fourth, track the progress of your case.  Read all paperwork that is sent to you thoroughly, and make note of all hearings scheduled.  Be prepared for all hearings by learning the applicable rules of court and bringing all evidence you intend to present.  To track events in your case online, visit CourtView

    Finally, make sure you attend all scheduled court dates.  Failure to appear for hearings scheduled in your case may result in the proceedings moving forward without you or dismissal of your case. 

The Reality of Self-Representation

Pro se litigants face considerable challenges navigating the legal system because they lack formal legal education and courtroom experience.  Pro se litigants face worse outcomes than parties represented by attorneys for a variety of reasons. 

First, domestic relations law is complex and ever-changing.  Experienced attorneys must devote time and energy to staying informed of changes in the law as part of their regular practice.  A pro se litigant will be expected to do the same, minus the resources available to attorneys and training in interpreting the law.

Second, domestic relations cases require time for research, drafting, and courtroom preparation.  Many pro se litigants are employed full-time in addition to representing themselves.  The ability to take time off from work for court appearances they wouldn’t have to attend if represented, as well as the frequent travel required during the compliance process, are common challenges for pro se litigants.  More time is required to gather evidence and prepare the case for court.

Third, there are no easy answers.  Most issues can go both ways, and it is not uncommon for pro se litigants to receive conflicting answers when they seek assistance.  This can lead to confusion, feelings that the system is against them, and frustration that someone can’t just provide the answer.

Fourth, emotions can affect judgment.  Stress impairs a person’s ability to evaluate options, make rational decisions, create logical arguments, or respond to questions or challenges.  When children, home, finances, and property are on the line, stress can impact the ability to present a clear, comprehensive case to the Judge or Magistrate.

Fifth, court procedures are complex.  From deciding what paperwork to file, to getting it approved by compliance, to representing yourself in Court, the rules are complicated.  It takes time and training to interpret the rules, then apply them to your case.

Don’t Assume You Can’t Afford an Attorney

In many instances, pro se litigants jump to the conclusion that they cannot afford an attorney before they explore cost of representation and payment options.  Do the research before you decide you cannot afford representation.  Many local attorneys offer payment plans or unbundled legal services.  Saving money by not hiring an attorney now may cost you much more than money later on. 

Benefits of representation include

  • Faster resolution of legal issues
  • Minimal paperwork to be completed by the litigant
  • Courtroom advocacy by a trained professional
  • Expert advice and counseling. 

For help finding an attorney, visit the Greene County Bar Association, Dayton Bar Association, and Legal Aid of Western Ohio websites.

Legal Advice and the Limits of Court Assistance

Court staff cannot give you legal advice, but can answer general questions about the courthouse and court procedures.  View the Legal Advice Chart to learn more about the limits of information available from the court staff.

 

How Do I Find Out What is Happening in My Case?

Once your documents are filed and you are assigned a case number, your case will be added to the CourtView website.  CourtView is maintained by the Greene County Clerk of Courts and allows parties to view any events that happen in your case such as when service was done, when a motion was filed, or when your next hearing date is scheduled. 

 

Standard Order Parenting Time

In order to promote relationships with both parents when a marriage ends, the Court has created a Standard Order Parenting Time Schedule.  The schedule provides mid-week, weekend, and holiday parenting time to the non-residential parent in a child custody case.

Parent Education

To combat the negative impact ending a marriage can have on the children, the Court requires parties with children who are filing for divorce, dissolution, annulment, or legal separation to attend a parenting class.  Families Succeeding After Divorce is a two-hour seminar that educates parents on issues children may face as a result of ending their marriage.  There is no charge for the class. 

The class is held the first Thursday of every month, and once monthly on Saturday.  You must pre-register for the class at least five (5) business days in advance. 

Note:  Pro se parties must take this class before their paperwork will be filed with the Clerk of Courts.  If your paperwork is approved after compliance review, but you fail to take the class, your paperwork will be discarded after 60 days, and you must restart the filing process.