Home UK Rules Legal Rights Courts › Defend Yourself in Court
Representing Yourself in Court

You have the legal right to speak for yourself and to represent yourself in a court of law. The judicial system does not force you to hire the services of a legal professional (e.g. a solicitor) in United Kingdom.

This help guide explains which papers to use and where to look for free advice if you plan on going to court alone without the representation of a lawyer.

Reasons to Defend and Represent Yourself

There are several valid reasons for choosing to represent yourself in court. Typical examples include:

  • Not being able to cover the cost of legal fees.
  • Preferring to talk direct to the judge, jury, or magistrates.

Some of the rules for lay representation in civil cases differ in Scotland. The Litigant in Person Support Strategy (LiPSS) has further advice on how to conduct a case by yourself.

The ‘Litigant in Person’ refers to an individual who represents themselves in court. The same person might also be an ‘applicant’ in a family court, a ‘respondent’ in a civil court, and the ‘defendant’ in criminal court.

Note: There is a way to check if you can get legal aid before considering whether to represent yourself because you are unable to afford the legal costs.

Having Someone with You in Court

As a rule, you can take someone along to provide help in court. Even though the other person can take notes on behalf of the unrepresented person, and give them advice, they would not be able to:

  • Speak to the judge, jury, or magistrates on their behalf.
  • Interfere with the court proceedings.
  • Sign any relevant court documents on their behalf.

A person accompanying a Litigant in Person is also known as a ‘McKenzie friend’. But, the judge decides whether to allow someone the help of a McKenzie friend in a court of law.

Finding a Legal Adviser

Despite electing to represent yourself in court, and speak for yourself, you can still search for legal advice to help with your case.

Note: The Courts and Tribunals Journal has information the rights of Litigants to have reasonable assistance from a layperson. It explains exactly what McKenzie friends can and cannot do.

Divorce and Separation involving Children

Bringing a case forward yourself means you would be the ‘applicant’ (e.g. after filing divorce papers). But, you would be the ‘respondent’ if you were the person who received:

  • A request for a separation
  • A contact order or residence order for a child
  • Divorce papers

Before Going to Court

As a general rule, you would need to use mediation services before you can go to court. You would also need to send Form C100 to the court before they will hear the case. Read CB7 guidance notes for further details.

Other sections provide extra advice and information on topics such as:

Divorce and Separation involving Valuables

In cases involving money and property after a divorce or separation, a person representing themselves in court would be:

  • The ‘applicant’ if they brought the case before the courts (e.g. the person who filed a divorce petition).
  • The ‘respondent’ if someone brings a case against you.

Another section explains how to divide money and property when a relationship ends in more detail. It clarifies what you need to do before going to court if there is a dispute about sharing out any valuables.

As a general rule, you would need to use mediation services before you can go to court. You would also need to send Form C100 to the court before they will hear the case.

How to Represent or Defend Yourself in Court in United Kingdom