Court proceedings are often daunting enough without the added pressure of having to draft any paperwork that the court require within your case. Often parties are asked to prepare statements to help assist the judge with the background of your case and to detail the parties current position on any allegations that may arise. A statement is also useful to respond to any concerns/allegations/issues that have been remarked upon and provide your comments upon the same. Remember that this is your time to clearly state your case.
So how should you prepare your statement?
Whilst this is your perfect opportunity to outline your case and concerns, you may wish to bear in mind that the court would not wish to read your life story and a judge will not read a lengthy statement. Where possible, keep your statement as concise as possible, sticking to the points that the court wish to be considered. Why say 10 words when five will do?
Don’t worry about legal jargon, just be yourself and write what you need to. A statement can be written and rewritten as many times as you need it to be before submitting it to the court.
Check and check again
When drafting documents, the writer can often read things that are not there! I know I do!! As the author of a document, you can get carried away with typing and often miss the smallest of words that will make the sentence complete and make sense. Therefore it is always a good idea to a get someone else to check over what you have typed to make sure that it makes sense and that you have not missed anything out. Don’t be afraid to write and then rewrite to make sure that you get the best version of what you wish to say. It is also a good exercise to get a fresh pair of eyes on any documents that you write to ensure that you don’t miss anything.
Try not to mislead
Your statement that you prepare will go to court as your evidence. Therefore remember that you may be cross examined (asked questions by the judge) about the contents of your statement and possibly to elaborate on any points that you have raised. Make sure that you can correctly recall any incidents that have taken place and if you have any documentary evidence (such as a text message or paper document), enclose them with your statement. However, do not overload a court with extracts from Facebook or lengthy text conversation. A judge will not wish to see “tit for tat” arguments from social media, however they would wish to see the relevant remarks that you may be referring to.
Plan ahead – why are you writing this?
Statements are often used to respond to the other party’s own statement or to elaborate on your own concerns. Take a moment before preparing and think about what you actually want to say and want the court to read. If you are responding to a statement, read the statement first and make some notes before you jump straight in to respond. Your reaction to first reading a statement will be different once you have digested and considered all the points raised. You can then plan out your statement and how you wish to respond to each point in turn, carefully detailing your response. It is easy to get caught up in the allegations, comments that have been raised. However, you must consider each of them carefully and not respond when your emotions are at their highest. Having a clear head will better serve you when preparing your statement and will provide a clearer statement for the court to read.
Just because you may not have legal representation does not mean that your statement will matter any less or given less weight. Don’t worry about legal jargon, just be yourself and write what you need to. A statement can be written and rewritten as many times as you need it to be before submitting it to the court.
Legal representatives take it for granted the headings that they automatically include in their statements. Make sure your statement is clearly marked as to who the parties are “Mr Joe Blogs, Applicant”. Include the date that you have prepared and signed your statement. “Signed……………….on this 10thday of July 2019”. If you are referring to any enclosures, then clearly mark them “I hereby enclose exhibit marked 1” and then mark the enclosure with “1”. Start your statement with the reason why you are making your statement i.e. “I, Mr J Blogs, make this statement in response to Mrs J Blogs statement date……….” Or “I Mr J Blogs, make this statement pursuant to the order dated………”
You must also ensure that you file the statement at court and serve a copy upon the other party in sufficient time for any return court dates and remember to keep your own copy.
Many Law Firms will now provide an “ask the legal expert” service whereby you can pay a one off fee for them to check documentation. If in any doubt, contact a local firm and see if they would be able to look over your document. Whilst they may not be able to provide you with support in the contents of your statement, they may be able to assist you with the wording and/or layout of the same. Never feel that you cannot ask for help.
If you are facing court alone many people have found Lucy Reed’s book, ‘Family Court Without A Lawyer’ particularly useful.
If you want to read more about the emotional impact of separation and how to get yourself back on track Breaking Upwards is a good starting point.
Posted on August 5, 2019