Any time a person wants to ask the court to do something — such as set a hearing date, enforce a prior court order, or take other legal action — he or she is generally required to file a motion. This can be done with, or without, the assistance of an attorney. When a pro se motion is filed, it means that the request is made without the assistance of a lawyer. Even when an individual files this type of paperwork with the court without counsel, he or she must usually use the same format, and abide by the same rules that legal representatives are required to follow.
The inability to afford an attorney is the most common reason for someone to file a pro se motion. Most court systems provide the required documents at little or no cost. It is important to carefully read and follow all of the instructions that accompany these forms when filing this type of motion. Incorrect or incomplete paperwork submitted to a judge may lead to a delay or the dismissal of a request.
Most courthouses offer a self-help division to assist people who are filing motions on their own. Instructions and forms are usually available in this department, and clerks can offer assistance in completing the required information. While this department can answer basic procedural questions, they are generally not permitted to offer legal advice.
A pro se motion can be filed in a civil or criminal case, by either a defendant or petitioner. The most common filings of this type, however, are in cases of family law, such as a simple divorce. Litigants in small claims court may also choose to forgo the expense of hiring an attorney and represent themselves without assistance. Sometimes, incarcerated men or women file a pro se motion when they do not have representation.
Any time a pro se motion is filed, a copy of the paperwork, along with any supporting documents, should also be delivered to the other party in the case. Failing to send this information can lead to long delays or dismissal of the case. In some instances, the law requires that documents are personally delivered by a process server or local law enforcement agency. Sometimes, however, court documents can be delivered by certified or regular mail. Either way, it is best to have proof that the other party has received the same paperwork you submitted to the court.