Can I have a lawyer help me represent myself in my own divorce?
Everyone has a right to represent themselves in court; however, it is rarely a “good idea.” A proverb says that, “He who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.” However, as of July 1, 2009 the Kansas courts have set up “pilot projects” in certain Kansas counties that allow lawyers in those counties to provide “limited-scope representation” to clients, including to those representing themselves in family law cases.
“Limited-scope” representation allows a lawyer ethically to provide client advice, guidance, drafting help, and in-court appearances for specific matters, without filing a “general entry of appearance,” which obligates the lawyer to attend every hearing and requires any other attorney to contact only that lawyer throughout the case.
Although “limited scope representation” is not appropriate in every situation, it provides an opportunity to those needing limited assistance with legal forms and advice, access to that information without committing themselves (or the lawyer) to a long term relationship.
Kansas Supreme Court Administrative Order 233 states:
“As recommended and developed by the Self Represented Study Committee appointed by this Court to study and make recommendations regarding self represented litigants, the Court hereby approves implementation of pilot projects in the 3rd [Shawnee County], 7th [Douglas County], 10th [Johnson County], 18th [Sedgwick County], and 23rd [Ellis, Gove, Rooks, and Trego Counties] Judicial Districts, effective July 1, 2009.”
“Notwithstanding any provision to the contrary in any Rule of this Court or Standing Order, the procedures and forms developed and recommended by the Self Represented Study Committee, attached hereto, shall apply with respect to the pilot projects.”
“The Self Represented Study Committee shall report back on or before December 1, 2010, regarding the pilot projects. The reports shall include, but not be limited to, comments of attorneys, litigants, judges, court staff, and the public on the pilot projects, along with recommendations.”
“BY ORDER OF THE COURT this 26th day of March, 2009.”
Despite what many people – including many lawyers – think, family law is complex. Even situations that seem “simple,” are frequently much more complicated than they appear on the surface. The last twenty years has brought an explosion in complexity to family law. Divorce involves not just “getting ‘un-married,’” but frequently involves a staggering array of interlocking federal and state legal provisions and requirements. It is rarely a good idea to not seek the advice of a lawyer who has experience in family law issues.
Although the best way to have any family law matter handled is to hire an attorney for full representation, this new “limited scope representation” option is available.