Study: More help needed for unrepresented in family court

DENVER (AP) – After speaking to more than 100 people in Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon and Tennessee who represented themselves in family court, researchers are calling on lawyers to provide cheaper services and courts to offer more support.

Some jurisdictions report it’s becoming the norm for at least one party in a family court case to act on his or her own behalf in court. Often, parties can’t afford trained help.

Natalie Anne Knowlton directed the family-focused project at the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System that oversaw the new research. She points to attorney innovations.

Lawyers have, for example, left tasks such as filing documents to clients and billed only for appearing in court or for questioning an estranged spouse. Knowlton says technology also can support those without lawyers.