Look for legal help first.
It is a good idea to find a lawyer if you can. To find a free legal help program near you, use our Referral Navigator.
If you can't find a lawyer or work things out here are tips to help you.
What to Expect When You're Representing Yourself
You have the right to represent yourself. There is some information to help you, so seek that out.
Judges and court staff cannot give you legal advice. You must follow court rules like everybody else. Do not expect special treatment just because you do not have a lawyer.
Breaking the rules may keep you from winning even if you have a good case. The court could punish or fine you. If you lose you may be ordered to pay the other side's costs and fees.
Things To Do Before You Go To Court or File Court Papers
- If you are delivered or served with court papers, read these papers right away! Keep them! Mark down dates when you have to go to court or file papers in court. There can be more than one court date in a case. Read everything and mark down all dates!
- Write down names, addresses, phone numbers and details about people and events in your case.
- Copy and put in order important papers about your legal problem. Keep original papers and documents safe and bring them to court with your copies. You may need extra copies for the court or the other side of the case.
- Example: for a landlord problem, get your lease, rent receipts/money orders /cancelled checks, and other papers.
- Find out about the law and court rules. The rules for all Louisiana state courts are posted on www.lasc.org, the site of the Louisiana Supreme Court. Click on "Court Rules" at the top of the home page. For information about basic Louisiana legal issues, see louisianalawhelp.org.
- Your public library may have law books and computers. See if there is a library at your local courthouse or law school.
- If there is a pending court case, see the papers in the court's record. Ask a court clerk for help with this.
- Try to sit in on other court cases to get a feel for what going to court is like. See tips for how to dress and act.
- If you have children, check with the court before your court date to find out if the court will let you bring your children. You may need to find someone to take care of your children on your court date.
- Get court papers ready to file.
- Writing court papers is hard to do. There may be a form for your issue. Check the library, courthouse or louisianalawhelp.org.
- It costs money to file most court papers. Find out if you need to pay to file papers in court.
- If you do not have money to file papers, you can ask for a court order to let you file papers without paying in advance.
- To get this order, you need to file something called an "In Forma Pauperis" form, or "IFP" for short. Use this tool to fill out the IFP forms and print them to file.
See the FAQs below for more information on what to do and how to behave at court.
After Your Day in Court
- The judge must rule on the case based on the law and the facts, even if this looks unfair.
- If you win, congratulations! Get a "certified" copy of your Judgment and keep this safe for your records. Even if you win a money judgment it may be very hard to collect the money.
- If you lose you may be able to challenge a judge's ruling or try to get it undone. It can be hard to fight a court decision without a lawyer. Try to get a lawyer right away. There are strict time limits to challenge or appeal.
The content on this page has been adapted from publications attributable to the entities reflected below.
Southeast Louisiana Legal Serviceswww.slls.org
Free legal information for low-income people: louisianalawhelp.org
Resources for Louisiana's public interest and pro bono advocates: www.probono.net/la
Original Publication Date: December 2010
Information not legal advice. This document has been prepared for general information purposes only. This is not legal advice. Legal advice depends on the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state to state, so that some information may be correct for your jurisdiction. Finally, the information contained is not guaranteed to be up-to-date. Therefore, this information cannot replace the advice of a competent legal representative licensed in your state.