Pro Se in court hearing

Thank you for providing this forum!
Since I can’t afford a lawyer, unfortunately, I am about to go to the court pro se for custody against my ex’s lawyer. I am worried, and would really like some advices and be prepared as much as I can. I have the following questions.

  1. I have e-mails as proof of my arguments/statements. How do I submit that before the judge? Do I need to submit them before the court hearing? Or do I bring them on the day of the court hearing? If I only need to bring them to me in court, do I just present them several different e-mails, in several different given time. (How about photos?)

  2. What should I expect on the court hearing? Or its process? Is it something like the following?
    a. Intro statements from both
    b. My ex’s statement (he is the one brought me to court.)
    c. My statement
    … back and forth in making our arguments and counter arguments?
    d. Conclusion
    of why it is the best interests to the children to have them stay with me. My ex’ lawyer gives my ex.

  3. Any pointers/suggestions that I should be aware of?

Please advice! Thank you for your time!!

If you can authenticate the emails between you and your ex, then yes, they can be used to both rebut his testimony (this is easier) and they can be admissible as evidence.

Emails from a third party will not be admissible if they are not present in the courtroom unless there is some way you can properly authenticate them. Even then, the content of the email may be inadmissible hearsay. It’s a process dictated by the rules of evidence. You need to provide a proper foundation, meaning explain to the court how you obtained this evidence, that it wasn’t altered in any way, that it came to your email from the other party’s email address, that you are familiar with the other party’s email address, and things of that nature.

Normally, authentication is not difficult until the other party begins objecting to the validity of the evidence.

You can introduce the emails all at once (labeled D or P’s Exhibit 1-14 for ex.) or you can introduce them separately. Yes, you will each be asked if you would like to make an opening statement. You can waive this if you want to. Then the Plaintiff will put on their evidence, which you can then cross-examine. Then it’s the Defendant’s turn, when they can cross you. Then you will have the chance to make a closing argument to the judge.

Hi Crystal,

Thank you very much for your insights responded. It had helped greatly. Sorry for the belated thanks.

Hi Crystal,

The judge has ruled a temporary custody order and joint legal custody, and asked the other party’s lawyer to write the court order.
His lawyer had sent me the written court order doc to be reviewed.
It reads to be that some of the included “finding facts” to me somewhat biased. None of “negative” facts of my ex were included, and it only stating all the positive/good ones. Also, the way the text was written would contrasting my ex’ positive/good facts, followed by mine not so “positive/good” facts. None of my positive/good facts were included.
Moreover, there is some edits or some addition changes that was not ruled during the court ruling.


  1. I understand that this doc will not be official until the judge signs it. But, I am afraid that this draft court order would be submitted to judge, and if his lawyer tells the judge that I have agreed with the edits in parenting time. Will I get a chance to confirm on all the facts before the order is signed and filed? I need to address to some parts in this doc that was not mentioned in the court.

  2. Also, I think this doc should really read none-biased, as when we go on another hearing, we may have a new judge. Facts there were already presented in court, would not be re-introduced, isn’t it?
    Do I have the rights to ask his lawyer to make edits, so that it is not biased? or may I also edit/suggestions based on the doc, send it to his lawyer to review?

  3. We were granted Joint Legal Custody. Am I not understanding the term “Joint Legal custody” correct? Isn’t it… “both parents will need to cooperate with each other and reach agreements where the child is concerned” in the education, med and etc?

This doc written by his lawyer states:
“The Court finds the parties to be fit and proper persons to have joint legal custody of the children as set out with some particularity hereafter.”

Then, another part of doc states:
“IT IS FURTHER ORDERED THAT the parties are awarded joint legal custody of…”

But it then states:
"The parties must consult on education issues for the children but the Plaintiff has the authority to make all education decisions regarding the children. "

When this doc is written this way… is sounds to me that the Plaintiff really has the full legal custody? as if he has the" authority", he really doesn’t need to care what I think about it?

Thank you!


Without knowing what county you are in, I cannot tell you of the local customs in that county. However, in courts where where it has a family court system, generally one judge is assigned for the entire case. I would contact an attorney in your county to see if they can answer your question. If the same judge will be hearing your permanent case, then you don’t need to worry about him being biased by the facts in the prior order. Joint legal custody does mean that the parties will have to cooperate in making major decisions affecting the child, such as health care and education issues. Both parties also have access to records pertaining to the child. Day-to-day decisions will be made by the parent exercising primary physical custody. I cannot review specific language of documents on this general family law forum.