Being Your Own Lawyer


Appearing in court In Pro Per means that you are acting as your own attorney. You are not required to hire an attorney, but before taking any legal action it is highly advisable to consult with an attorney who can inform you about important legal rights.

An experienced attorney may be able to quickly assess your situation and highlight the best course of action to assert or protect your interests. Failure to consult with an attorney may result in unnecessary delays or costly measures in the future to remedy errors.

Typical family law matters may include child custody, child visitation, child support, spousal support, use of the residence, payment of debts, division of assets and debts, tax consequences, division of pension and retirement benefits, attorney's fees, and other issues.

Attorneys are listed in the telephone book. For a small fee you can schedule a short consultation with a private attorney by calling the Lawyer Referral Service at (209) 948-4620. Click here to visit the Lawyer Referral Service website.

The Family Law Service Center is a non-profit law firm available at a reduced cost for those who qualify as low income. To schedule an appointment call (209) 948-1171.

Parties who prefer to mediate their disputes can call the Mediation Center at (209) 474-8794.

If you cannot afford an attorney, or choose to represent yourself, you should know that in San Joaquin County:

  • You are responsible for completing all necessary forms, filing the forms with the court and presenting your case before the Judge.
  • When presenting your case you are expected to comply with the same legal procedures, evidence rules, and standards of practice as attorneys. Please see the Local Rules for the Superior Court of San Joaquin County.

Self-help books are available at your local library, law library, or book store. You may also obtain further information on completing your paperwork, serving your paperwork and filing your paperwork through the Family Law Facilitator's Office/ Pro Per Clinic.