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Eighteenth Judicial Circuit Courts
Serving the Citizens of Brevard and Seminole Counties

Self Help Resource Center (Pro Se)

Pro Se is a legal term for representing yourself in a legal procedure without the aid of an attorney and can apply to small claims, landlord-tenant evictions, family law, and probate estate cases.

Brevard Self-Help Center

Visit the Self-Help Center hosted by the Brevard Clerk of Court

Brevard Self-Help Center

Contact a Brevard County Pro Se Coordinator

The Brevard Pro Se Coordinator (offered through the Clerk of Court) does not give legal advice, tell a person what the law is, represent them in court, tell them how to testify in court, or tell them what their rights are.

Pro se parties can call (321-633-7780) or email the self-help office.

NOTE: If you are a Brevard County Resident, click here to access Brevard forms and procedures.

Seminole Self-Help Center

Visit the Dorothy Guess Self Help Center hosted by the Seminole Clerk of Court

Seminole Self-Help Center

Contact a Seminole County Pro Se Coordinator

The Dorothy Guess Self-Help Center is designed to offer self-represented parties (pro-se parties) resources and ministerial assistance. We also offer through the Self-Help Center, low-cost attorney consultation appointments. 

In Person: Criminal Justice Center
101 Eslinger Way, Sanford, Florida 32773
Phone: 407-665-4300
Attn: Self-Help Center
Mail: P.O. Box 8099, Sanford, FL 32772
Office Hours: M-F 8 AM-4:30 PM

Representing Yourself in Seminole Family Cases

Access Forms, Instructions & More for Seminole Family Cases

Frequently Asked Questions

What you need to know about Pro Se!

What exactly does it mean to act pro se in a legal proceeding?

Most legal dictionaries define the term “pro se” as someone who represents them-self in a legal procedure without the aid of an attorney. It is an established tenet that you have the right to represent yourself in a court of law, however, many people do not understand that choosing to represent yourself means that the Court will expect you to follow the same rules and procedures that an attorney must follow.


The Judge in your case may not do anything to give any appearance of being partial to either side and this includes giving legal advice and having contact with either party without the other being present. Generally, when you go into court, the Judge will give you much information about what may be wrong with whatever pleadings you filed.


Listen carefully; if you do not understand what is being said at the time, you can take that information and see an attorney afterwards to get a better understanding of what was said.

What Are the Rules of Court?

Judges are bound by the concept of “Stare Decisis” which is basically the idea that prior decisions must be honored and considered in any similar matter. Legal research can be very complex, but most law libraries will have a staff librarian that can show you basically how to find what you are looking for. Court procedures are defined and outlined by the Florida Supreme Court and are contained in a book called the Florida Rules of Court. This book contains rules and some examples of forms grouped together by the court to which they apply; in Florida there is a section for Juvenile Court, Criminal Court, Civil Court, and Family Law rules. If the other party files an objection to your pleading on procedural grounds or the judge signs an order denying your pleading because of a procedural problem, there will sometimes be a rule cited in the document to which you can refer. Put simply, representing yourself in a legal procedure is not always as easy as it sounds. There are many books written by lawyers for non-lawyers and you will be best prepared by reading everything you can find and getting legal advice from an attorney BEFORE you go to your hearing.


The Family Law Pro Se Project is authorized to give you basic forms and procedural information only. We cannot give legal advice or advise you on courtroom tactics. If you are unsure about how to proceed, we strongly encourage you to seek legal advice.

Procedural Information?

  1. Court staff may assist you with procedures only and very often there is a fine line between procedural information and legal advice.
  2. Staff cannot give legal advice.
  3. Procedural information includes such matters as where to obtain forms for some procedures, how to file a petition, answer requirements, service requirements on common procedures, how to get a default, how to file a motion, how to get a hearing, etc.
  4. Basically, questions must be taken individually and a judgment must be made on whether or not the question involves giving legal advice.
  5. If you are told that your question is legal advice, please accept that it is and don’t badger court employees to help you when they cannot.
  6. Filling out forms is definitely considered legal advice and you will need to seek the assistance of a licensed attorney if you have any questions regarding “what to put in the blanks.”

What You Need To Know Before Initiating A Case

  1. Court staff and employees of the Clerk of Court’s Office cannot give legal advice or help you fill out forms. Please do not ask.
  2. When you act as your own lawyer, you are held to the same standards as an attorney. Many petitions and forms come with detailed instructions. Take time to thoroughly read and understand them before filing legal papers. You must read and understand the applicable rules of procedure that apply in your case and you must be familiar with the controlling legal principles. It is YOUR job to find out what these are. Your rights could be seriously jeopardized if you commit legal malpractice in your own case. Consider consulting with an attorney who is a member of The Florida Bar.
  3. It is YOUR responsibility to select the right forms and to properly complete them. Individual forms and packages of forms for certain types of proceedings are available from the Clerk for a fee. 
  4. If you need help completing forms, you may seek the help of friends, visit a lawyer, or hire a paralegal. Paralegals are listed in the Yellow Pages of the phone book or online.
  5. If you believe you have selected the correct papers to file with the Clerk, you may do so. However, if you have chosen the wrong papers or they are incomplete, your case may be dismissed or delayed. Take the time to do it right. No action will be taken on your case until the correct papers are provided.
  6. The law requires certain petitions and motions to be served on the opposing party by use of a process server or a Deputy Sheriff. Failure to do so may prevent your case from going forward. YOU must determine when personal service of a paper is required. The clerk will refer you to the form (called a summons) which must accompany petitions and motions required to be served on a party.
    Remember, all motions and many other legal documents must contain a certificate of service showing copies sent to the opposing parties or their attorney.
  7. If you are defending a case, failure to file the correct response with the clerk may result in a default, which can keep you from contesting the matter in the future - forever.
  8. Court Staff screen all out-of-court communications between you and the judge. Judges may not see your letters, notes, e-mails or phone messages if they do not meet legal standards or if they contain inappropriate information. Court staff will make every effort to answer important questions about your case. However, due to large number of inquiries, not all requests for information can be answered by court staff.
  9. Make sure you can live with the consequences of litigation! If you are starting a proceeding, be aware the opposing side may respond by asking the court to take action you do not like. Sometimes persons representing themselves receive the exact opposite result they desire. Depending on the type of petition or motion you file, in a Family Division case the court may order you to pay for the other side’s attorney fees and court costs whether you win OR lose.
  10. Failure to appear in court for a hearing or trial may result in the other side getting whatever they request, including dismissal of the action or a default against the defending party. If you receive a summons or notice of hearing do not ignore them.
  11. YOUR CASE IS AN OPEN BOOK. With few exceptions, all papers filed for or against you in a Florida court are public record. They may be examined by members of the public, prospective employers and the press. Papers sent to the judge are filed in the clerk’s public record case file.
  12. THERE ARE NO WARRANTIES GIVEN AS TO FORMS: There are no warranties expressed or implied in regard to forms supplied by the Clerk of Court. They are only examples. They may or may not be suitable for the facts of your particular case. Use them at your own risk. They must be modified to fit your unique situation. The fact that the clerk provided you the basic form will not be a defense if what you file is wrong

What You Need to Know About ALL Court Proceedings

  • You are in a Court of Law, therefore you should dress appropriately. Read the latest courtroom decorum policy.
  • DO NOT bring your children to the courthouse.
  • The court ALWAYS prefers both parties to attend all hearings.
  • Always read or listen to, and follow the instructions provided to you.
  • Wait outside the courtroom until the bailiff calls your name.
  • If you were told to bring your Florida Driver License, be sure to have it readily available before you go into the courtroom.
  • If the judge/magistrate should interrupt you, STOP TALKING AND LISTEN!
  • DO NOT interrupt the judge, the other party, or witnesses.
  • Speak directly to the judge/magistrate.
  • Stay focused on the issues.
  • Be prepared for court!

Final Hearings and Trials

A petition or motion is a request for the court to make a decision. A hearing or trial is the time when the court will make a decision on the petition or motion filed by a party to the case. In general, motions are decided at hearings and petitions are decided at trials. The person making the decision will either be a judge, magistrate or hearing officer (referred to here as “the court”).



A hearing/trial is a meeting with the court and both parties where the court will consider evidence that both sides present and will make a decision.



The court CANNOT investigate the case. The court cannot call witnesses or present evidence. It is YOUR responsibility to present admissible evidence at a hearing/trial to support what you have requested in a motion/petition or to defend against what the other party has requested in their motion/petition. Evidence can be witness testimony, testimony of you and/or the other party, documents, photographs, objects, etc. Admissible evidence is evidence the court is allowed to consider under the Rules of Evidence (See Florida Statutes, chapter 90). For example, letters from non-parties and repeating what a non-party told you (unless they are present in court to testify) generally are hearsay and are not admissible in court. However, there are many exceptions to the hearsay rule and admissibility of evidence should be researched before your hearing or trial.



Generally, you will have HALF of the time scheduled to present your evidence.



If you are scheduling the hearing, it is your responsibility to notify the other party. You are required to send a Notice of Hearing to the other party at the last address in the court file (note: it is a good idea to also send to all other known/possible addresses) and to list all addresses used for the other party on the Notice of Hearing. If the court tells you it will prepare the Notice of Hearing, this requirement is waived. It is your responsibility to keep your address current in the court file AT ALL TIMES. All documents filed by you should state your current address.


If you have documents or items that you feel will help prove your case (i.e. copies of bills, receipts, printed text messages, a video burned to a portable drive, etc.), you must bring them with you. However, you must be aware that there are evidentiary rules that may prohibit their use, so determine whether witnesses may be necessary to properly introduce these items into evidence.

Presenting Your Case

Prepare an opening statement, which is a brief statement indicating:

  • What the hearing is for (i.e. final divorce hearing, petition to modify parenting plan, etc.);
  • Whether or not an agreement has been reached;
  • What the issues are that the judge/magistrate will have to decide upon;
  • How many witnesses you will call upon to testify.

Each side will have the opportunity to present his/her case before the judge/magistrate by:

  • Submitting evidence;
  • Direct examination of witnesses;
  • Cross-examination of witnesses by opposing party


  • All documents or items you present to the judge/magistrate and the questions that you ask the witnesses must be relevant to the issues before the court and the facts that you need to prove.
  • You can testify as your own witness.
  • You can call other individuals to be witnesses.
  • You can subpoena a witness.


Information on Evidence and the Florida Statutes can be found in Chapter 90, Evidence Code of the Florida Statutes.


There are many different types of trial objections in Florida. Some of the most common (though not an exhaustive list) are listed below. Please note this list is only meant to be an aid. The Self Help Center encourages you to seek the advice of legal counsel and research evidentiary trial objections on your own.

  1. AMBIGUOUS. Confusing question in that it is capable of being understood in more than one sense. Florida Statutes § 90.612 (1).
  2. ARGUMENTATIVE. (a) Counsel’s question is really argument; or (b) excessive quibbling with witness. Florida Statutes § 90.612 (1).
  3. ASKED AND ANSWERED. Unfair to allow counsel to emphasize evidence through repetition. Florida Statutes § 90.612 (1).
  4. ASSUMES A FACT NOT IN EVIDENCE. Fact not testified to but contained in the question. Florida Statutes § 90.104(2); 90.612(a).
  5. AUTENTICATION LACKING. Proof must be offered that the exhibit is in fact what it is claimed to be. Florida Statutes § 90.901.
  6. BEST EVIDENCE RULE. If rules applies, original document must be offered or its absence accounted for. If contents of documents are to be proved, rule usually applies. Florida Statutes § 90.952.
  7. BEYOND SCOPE (of direct, cross direct, etc.) Question unrelated to preceding examination by opposing counsel.
  8. COMPOUND. More than one question contained in the question by counsel. Florida Statutes § 90.612 (1).
  9. CONCLUSION. Except for an expert, a witness must testify to facts within personal knowledge. Florida Statutes § 90.604; 90.701.
  10. CONFUSING AND UNINTELLIGLE. Unfamiliar words disjointed phrases or questions confuse facts or evidence. Florida Statutes § 90.612(1).
  11. COUNSEL TESTIFYING. Counsel is making a statement instead of asking a question. Florida Statutes § 90.605.
  12. CUMULATIVE. Repeated presentation of the same evidence by exhibits or by more witnesses. Florida Statutes § 90.612(1); 90.403.
  13. FOUNDATION LACKING. No proper foundation for testimony or exhibit. Florida Statutes § 90.604; 90.612(1).
  14. IMPEACHMENT BY IMPROPER MEANS. Methods of impeachment are limited and specific. Florida Statutes § 90.608.
  15. IMPROPER CHARACTERIZATION. Counsel’s question or witness’s response has characterized a response has characterized a person or conduct with unwarranted argumentative, impertinent or conclusionary language. Florida Statutes § 90.404-405; 90.612(1).
  16. IRRELEVANT. Would not tend to prove or disprove a material fact. Motion to strike may be appropriate. Florida Statutes § 90.401.
  17. LEADING. Form of question tends to suggest answer. Florida Statutes § 90.612(3). MISQUOTING WITNESS. Counsel’s question misstates prior testimony of witness. Florida Statutes § 90.104(2).
  18. NARRATIVE. Question is broad or covers such a large time period would allow witness to ramble and preserve hearsay or irrelevant evidence. Florida Statutes § 90.104(2); 90.612(1).
  19. OPINION. Lay opinion which beyond the scope permitted by Florida Statutes § 90.701; personal knowledge lacking of expert witness has not been qualified such. Florida Statutes § 90.604; 90.701-702.
  20. PREJUDICE OUTWEIGHED PROBATIVE VALUE. The probative value of the evidence is far outweighed by the prejudicial effect of the evidence. Must apply to the exhibits as well as testimony. Florida Statutes § 90.403.
  21. PRIVILEGED. Answer would violate valid privilege (i.e., lawyer-client, spouse-spouse, clergy, etc.) Florida Statutes § 90.502-506.
  22. SPECULATION AND CONJECTURE. Question allows witness who lacks personal knowledge to guess. Florida Statutes § 90.604; 90.701
  23. UNRESPONSIVE. Answer includes testimony not called for by the question. Especially applicable to voluntary response by hostile witness. Florida Statutes § 90.612(1); 90.104(2).
  24. HEARSAY. Hearsay is the legal term for any statement, verbal or non-verbal, offered as evidence that is not based on a witness’ personal knowledge, but instead on another person’s statement that was not made under oath. Generally, hearsay is not admissible evidence.


The Eighteenth Judicial Circuit provides spoken language court interpreters to limited-English-proficient persons in accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, section 90.606, Florida Statutes, and Rule 2.560, Florida Rules of Judicial Administration.


Qualified spoken language court interpreters will be appointed where a fundamental interest is at stake and the inability of individuals to understand or express themselves in English may prevent full and necessary participation in court proceedings. Such cases include, but are not limited to, circuit and county criminal, juvenile delinquency and dependency, domestic violence injunction, mental health and incapacity proceedings, and any other matters in which the court determines an interpreter is necessary.


Qualified spoken language court interpreters will also be appointed for limited-English-proficient witnesses in any proceeding and for limited-English-proficient victims in any circuit or county criminal or juvenile delinquency proceeding.


Requests for spoken language court interpreters must be received a minimum of 5 days in advance of the scheduled proceeding. In the case of certain languages of lesser diffusion or unscheduled interpreting, more time may be necessary to arrange for a qualified interpreter and a remote interpreting service may be used.


To request a spoken language court interpreter:

  • Brevard County Court Administration at (321) 633-2171 ext. 3
  • Seminole County Court Administration at (407) 665-4200 - In Seminole you may also request service by filling in the online form and submitting.

Sign Language Interpreters


Additionally, the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit provides interpreter services and reasonable accommodations for deaf persons in all cases in accordance with section 90.6063, Florida Statutes, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

If you need a sign language interpreter or accommodation, you are entitled to one at no cost to you.


Requests for sign language interpreters should be made at least 5 days prior to the scheduled event when possible.


To request a sign language interpreter or ADA Accommodation:

  • Brevard County Court Administration at (321) 633-2171 ext. 3
  • Seminole County Court Administration at (407) 665-4200 

Obtaining Your Final Judgment

If your final hearing is before the magistrate, and neither party files an exception to the magistrate’s decision, you must wait (10) ten days from the date of your final hearing for the judge to sign a final judgment accepting the magistrate’s decision. If both parties appear at the final hearing, the parties may agree to waive the waiting period.


The petitioner must pay the Clerk of Court a filing fee of $10.50 for the clerk to record the final judgment. If the parties do not agree to waive the ten-day waiting period, your final judgment will be available at the clerk’s office two weeks after your final hearing.


Because you are representing yourself in court, it is your responsibility to become familiar with the rules and laws relevant to your legal matter. Be sure you are aware of the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure, Florida Statutes, Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, and the Florida Rules of Evidence. The judge, the magistrate, case managers, or other court personnel cannot give you legal advice.


You may obtain additional information and forms by visiting the Florida State Courts at

Florida Courts Help available at the touch of a screen:

For constituents, customers, or callers seeking help with family law cases – divorce, adoption, name change, custody, order of protection, and much more – there is now a one-stop source for lots of information aimed at self-represented people. Florida Courts Help is available at app stores as well as online at

View Case Management Administrative Orders, video tutorial on how to properly complete and submit Case Management Plan/Orders, and more. Please ensure you are utilizing the most recent Case Management Plan and Case Management Order. Click here to view Civil Case Management Orders & Forms (Updated on 4/16/2024)
Case Management Plan/Orders