Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

New program for those attempting do-it-yourself divorces

As the cost of divorce increases and the economy remains stagnant many people are attempting to handle their legal cases without the help of attorneys. Whether it is because they can't afford an attorney or just don't want one there has been a drastic increase in the number of pro-se divorces. In the do-it-yourself YouTube and online form era many couples are forgoing the traditional route of obtaining divorces and while it may save on their pocketbook it oftentimes results in increased work for courts and their staff.

With over 56 percent of Utah family law cases tried without an attorney on either side courts are finding themselves overwhelmed attempting to help pro-se litigates. The Utah Judicial Committee report expounded that self-represented parties fail to understand the inner workings of civil court and often rely on judges and staff for legal advice. After the 2012 Pro Bono Commission, Utah's bar introduced the new program Modest Means Lawyer Referral plan. This plan is aimed at serving citizens who make too much to qualify for free pro bono services and too little to afford a full time attorney. The program allows attorneys to provide services at a discounted rate and enables attorneys to work on parts of a case without being bound to the entire case.

Court rules and procedure can be some of the most difficult areas of law to understand, but are the basic foundation for how a civil case is to be tried. One important change that the program enacted was allowing attorneys to work on a case without being bond to the case. Normally an attorney, when working on a case, must file an appearance and continue their efforts until the case has concluded or they are removed from the case. The rule changes enables attorneys to write a motion, review a document or attend a court hearing without being attached to the case.

As long as information continues to be widely available over the Internet individuals will continue to attempt to litigate court cases themselves. However, with this new option individuals can at least have a go-to person for help with the more complex legal issues.

Source: The Spectrum, "Program offers legal assistance," Kevin Jenkins, Aug. 31, 2013

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