When to Consider Limited Representation in Divorce Proceedings
Do-it-yourself projects are popular. Detailed instructions on how to build a deck, plant a garden, or fix a leaky faucet are readily available online. When done correctly, DIY projects can save money and give people a sense of pride.
Numerous online articles also provide tips for going through divorce. Many of these articles provide valuable advice to couples struggling with next steps and the emotions of divorce. However, no list or online article can fully explain everything that must be done and considered in divorce. It is incredibly risky to approach divorce as a do-it-yourself project. Navigating unfamiliar legal terrain while handling the emotional struggles of a divorce can be pennywise and pound foolish, as well as incredibly stressful.
Limited representation defined
Under Massachusetts law, certified Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) attorneys can represent clients for a specific court event or discrete legal task but not for the entire divorce proceedings. For some Massachusetts residents seeking a divorce, limited representation by an attorney can be beneficial. Limited representation can include:
- Consultation: evaluate and analyze your particular situation; give you legal advice and inform you of your range of legal options
- Second opinions: provide you with feedback and information to assist with your current legal representation; provide you with questions to ask your current attorney to help develop more effective legal strategies or identify issues that might have been overlooked
- Document review: thoroughly review your separation agreement, proposed judgment, or prenuptial agreement and discuss and explain the content to you
- Divorce coaching: for clients who need ongoing advice and assistance with procedural or substantive issues in a case
- Individual Project Services: for clients who want to hire an attorney for a specific purpose, such as ghost-writing a legal pleading or responding to one, drafting discovery requests, preparing a financial statement, preparing financial disclosure documents, performing legal research, writing a brief, or drafting correspondence to opposing counsel
- Limited-Scope Attorney Appearance: for clients who need an attorney for a one-time court appearance such as a motion hearing or a pretrial conference
- Mediation Support: advise you of your legal rights before, during, or after your mediation sessions.
The client and attorney in a limited representation agreement enter into a detailed contract defining what tasks the attorney will handle and the tasks for which the client will be responsible.
Obtaining limited representation is only appropriate in certain circumstances, however. Below are a few items to consider when deciding whether to pursue limited representation by an attorney.
Full or limited representation?
Limited representation can be much more economical and efficient. Rather than paying for months or even years of legal representation, you can seek legal advice for select issues or events. You can have more control over certain aspects of your case. On the other hand, full representation provides you with the comfort of knowing all the legal aspects of your divorce are being handled by an attorney, allowing you to focus on the emotional aspects, your work, home life and your children.
Understand the risks of going it alone
An attorney understands the technical requirements applicable in divorce, such as the proper forms and relevant information to include in pleadings filed in court. That is not all an attorney does, however. In some cases, a divorcing spouse may not even understand where he or she is at risk until meeting with an attorney. One soon-to-be ex-spouse may not realize he or she is entitled to a share of the other’s retirement benefits, for example.
For people considering divorce, it is important to speak to an experienced family law attorney even if considering filing a no-contest divorce or filing without representation. The attorneys at Linda Sternberg, Esquire, are certified LAR attorneys, who can explain your legal options regarding divorce and provide you with appropriate services tailored to your needs.