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Judith G. McMullen & Debra Oswald, Why Do We Need a Lawyer?: An Empirical Study of Divorce Cases, 12 J.L. & Fam. Stud. 57 (2010)

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12 Journal of Law & Family Studies 57 (2010)


There has been a steady increase in the number of self-represented divorce litigants in recent years. Do divorcing couples just want to save money, or are other factors at play in the decision to go pro se in one’s divorce? This article looks at a random sample of 567 divorce cases in Waukesha County, Wisconsin, where a higher-than-average median income suggests that inability to afford a divorce lawyer is not the only factor in the decision to self-represent.

The article examines characteristics of litigants that are associated with proceeding pro se, and examines the length of the divorce process and the incidence of alimony awards in order to address the issue of whether divorce litigants are worse off if they choose to forgo counsel. The article also discusses the role of family lawyers in a system where so many parties to a divorce proceed pro se.

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