If you are representing yourself in a family law matter, you are not alone. Over half of the litigants in family court are not represented by lawyers. For many, it is because their incomes fall above the threshold to qualify for Legal Aid but fall well below what one reasonably needs to earn to afford a lawyer on a full retainer.
Navigating the family law system without any legal assistance at all can be rather daunting and many believe their only options are to choose between full representation and no representation.
There is a middle ground called a limited scope retainer, or an agreement for “unbundled” legal services, where a lawyer provides legal services for some, but not all, of a legal matter. This allows the client to access more affordable legal services and to access those services on their own terms. The client controls the cost of the process by deciding how and when they engage the services of a lawyer.
At Paul Family Law Professional Corporation, we offer the following unbundled legal services to our clients:
- Legal advice regarding rights and obligations;
- Review of court documents;
- Information about document preparation;
- Assistance with document preparation;
- Preparing computer support guideline calculations;
- Guidance about procedural information including filing and service of documents; and
- Legal coaching to prepare clients for attendance at mediation or court.
With unbundled services, you may be able to handle much of the case yourself, except for a few legal issues where you decide you need a lawyer’s help. It is really up to you and the lawyer to work out how much of your case you will hire them to do. No matter what, you remain responsible for and maintain control of your case at all times.
If you are going to hire a lawyer for unbundled services, here are some suggestions:
- Discuss thoroughly all aspects of your case with the lawyer. This includes telling the lawyer any information you may think is irrelevant, or even harmful to your case. Sometimes new issues will arise after your case has started. If they do, it is also important to advise the lawyer and discuss this information with them so that you know the potential legal consequences to you. Remember, the lawyer can only advise you on matters you tell him or her about, so it is essential that you provide complete information about your case.
- Ensure you understand and sign a limited scope retainer that clearly sets out what you and the lawyer are each responsible for doing in your case. Good communication and a clear understanding of each person’s assignments is essential to the unbundled legal service process.
If you are representing yourself in a family law matter and would like to know how we can help, contact Paul Family Law today to learn more about our unbundled services.