Self-represented strategies: A guide to limited representation in divorce.
Many who face divorce or paternity issues seek legal assistance that does not cost a fortune. The family court system is complicated and difficult to navigate. Representing yourself may not be the best option, but limited assistance for some aspects of your situation may be effective and affordable.
What are unbundled legal services?Under a limited representation, or unbundled legal assistance service plan, the client takes primary responsibility for the legal matter and uses legal services for specific issues such as drafting documents, child support worksheets, financial affidavits, strategic case planning and court preparation. The lawyer can act as a negotiator, adviser and can go to court on specific issues.
Limited representation allows you, the client, control over the process and the legal fees. When you hire a lawyer, you pay for the lawyers time driving to and from court, waiting for a hearing, communicating with the other party or their lawyer, etc. This can add up to a lot of time and money, and this is a large part of why a divorce can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Basically, you are paying for things that you do not need in order to get the services you do need.
Limited representation, or unbundled legal services, allow you to use the knowledge and expertise of a skilled attorney to help with your family law situation, without paying a hefty retainer. Using these services effectively allows you to better manage the costs of your family law case, while still getting the advise and assistance that you need.
What are the pros and cons of limited representation?The biggest advantage to limited representation/unbundled legal services is the cost. It costs less to hire a lawyer for specific tasks than to handle the whole matter. This allows you to create more of a budget for your divorce or family law situation.
Limited representation can work well for less complex matters or for cases where the client has the ability to represent him/herself but needs some legal advice or assistance with certain parts of the legal representation.
Limited representation may not work for some people or some situations. Some family law matters are complex and require legal knowledge. Others are highly personal and emotional and a person may find it difficult to address these issues without responding emotionally. And others are not comfortable speaking with themselves in court or in a negotiation.
What is the first step in limited representationThe first step is to seek a thorough consultation with an experienced family law attorney. Rather than free consultations, or limited advice sessions, where the lawyer rarely has time to answer your questions, let alone to review and analyze your situation in detail, seek advice from an attorney who is knowledgeable and willing to work with you under a limited scope representation. It is important that the attorney you speak have the personal, hands on family law experience to advise you on whether your case is suitable for limited representation, and whether this type of representation is best for you. It is also important that you and your attorney are able to establish a rapport so you can share information and work together efficiently and effectively. None of this can be determined in a brief meeting, or a telephone conversation.
In addition to discussing your case in detail and providing feedback on the pros and cons of limited representation in your personal situation, the attorney should provide you with a detailed summary of the issues discussed, a strategy for proceeding and a list of additional available resources that may be helpful for you in handling the matter.
Is limited representation right for me?This is something you should think about carefully, after reviewing your situation in detail with an attorney. Limited representation works better for certain situations, and certain people, than it does for others. Family law matters are the most personal, and most important, issues that most people will face. Your divorce, custody or other situation should not force you into bankruptcy. But it shouldn't be taken lightly either. Seeking the advise of a qualified and experienced family law attorney who is willing to work within your budget, but can also help provide you with realistic advice and expectations, is a crucial step in the process.