WHY DO WE NEED A LAWYER?: AN EMPIRICAL STUDY OF DIVORCE CASES

Abstract

Why do people choose to represent themselves in a divorce? Is it purely a question of economics, or do people avoid lawyers for other reasons (as has been suggested by some research)? What about the perception of the legal profession that self-represented divorce litigants are at a disadvantage? Are divorce litigants better off when they are represented by legal counsel? This article attempts to address some of these issues by drawing on empirical data. We set out to examine divorcing couples within a wide range of incomes, and who are living in a county with urban, suburban and rural communities. Thus, we selected Waukesha County, Wisconsin; a county adjacent to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We believe that by studying a specific population with such diverse levels of income and living arrangements we have taken a snapshot of how choices about lawyer representation during the divorce process are affecting average Americans. We examined a random sample of 567 divorce cases initiated in 2005. In an attempt to identify possible reasons for a decision to proceed pro se, we examined the relationship between various factors (such as age, income level or gender) and pro se status. We also attempted to examine the question of whether pro se litigants are worse off than those represented by legal counsel. The difficulty of defining success in the context of divorce litigation makes it especially hard to assess the impact of having attorney representation as opposed to proceeding pro se. For reasons discussed in detail later, we looked at two factors: the correlation between representation status and the likelihood of maintenance awards, and the correlation between representation status and the length of the divorce case.
How to Cite
. WHY DO WE NEED A LAWYER?: AN EMPIRICAL STUDY OF DIVORCE CASES. Journal of Law and Family Studies, [S.l.], v. 12, n. 1, mar. 2010. Available at: <http://epubs.utah.edu/index.php/jlfs/article/view/283>. Date accessed: 23 nov. 2017.
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Articles