Self-Represented Litigants

Most calls to our 800-line are from survivors who must go forward with their cases without a lawyer. Self-represented survivors hope that the court will provide safety and justice. However, courts are not designed for people who do not understand legal protocols. The results can be serious, even up to losing child custody. 

To help these survivors, the RCDV:CPC developed a series of guides, called the Self-Represented Litigants Series (SRL Series). Each short guide is focused on one aspect of a custody case. For example, 10 Ways to Find Help with Your Case lists possible sources of assistance. These sources include local self-help centers or law libraries, national resource centers, and reliable online materials.

Another guide, 10 Things to Know about Family Court, provides an overview of family court. The guide discusses the people who might be involved in the case, such as a judge, mediator, or court clerk. It also covers what the court can and cannot do and provides other information to help orient a self-represented survivor to the family court system.

Two popular guides focus on evidence and how to provide information about the survivor’s family to the court. This helps the court consider all relevant facts when making its decision. Even judges who understand domestic violence must have evidence to support their decisions. SRLs often have difficulties providing proper evidence because they don’t understand court rules and procedures. 10 Steps for Presenting Evidence in Court provides a step-by-step guide to gathering, organizing, and presenting the information that judges need, including witnesses and other sources like photos, reports, and letters. How to Gather Technology Abuse Evidence for Court describes how to document texts, emails, and social media posts in a way that will be admissible in court — instead of trying to hand the judge a smartphone.

Another guide focuses on mediation and how to participate effectively. Suggestions for how to ask about exemptions or safety accommodations for cases with domestic violence are a key aspect of the guidance provided in this publication. And one guide talks about how to create a safe parenting plan that works for a family’s specific needs. The parenting plan can then be used either in court or in mediation (or other settlement process).

Other guides are in development, and we welcome ideas! If you would like to propose a topic, please feel free to email us at

Get Assistance!

​The RCDV: CPC provides resources and referrals to domestic violence survivors involved in the child custody or child protection systems. The RCDV:CPC does not and cannot provide legal advice or legal assistance on individual cases.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline
At the National Domestic Violence Hotline, highly trained expert advocates are available to talk confidentially with anyone in the United States who is experiencing domestic violence, seeking resources or information, or questioning unhealthy aspects of their relationship. Advocates are available 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) in more than 200 languages. All calls are free and confidential. Advocates offer the same support through our live chat services. Click here for info about the chat.
Despite its name, provides information that is relevant to people of all genders, not just women. Our Email Hotline will provide legal information to anyone who reaches out with legal questions or concerns regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, or any other topic covered on


Resource Center on Domestic Violence: Child Protection and Custody.


1-800-52-PEACE or 1-800-527-3223
Email :


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