In Maryland 75% of Family Law Disputes Involve Self-Represented Litigants

According to a recent article in The Daily Record, 3 out of 4 family law disputes involve at least one self-represented party. In South Carolina, we are continuing to gather statistics but it’s likely that our numbers are similar. And in the current economic climate, it’s likely that these numbers will continue to increase.

The South Carolina Access to Justice (SCATJ) Commission has been addressing this issue from the Court’s standpoint, by training judges and working with clerks of court. In addition, the SCATJ Commission has been working with Court Administration to develop forms and instructions for self-represented litigants (SRLs). We’ve sent delegations to two conferences and started work groups as a result.

SCATJ has spoken with recognized SRL experts such as Richard Zorza and John Greacen as well as others. Commissioners have been inspired by New Hampshire Chief Justice John T. Broderick.

SCATJ has been reviewing information from other states about ways that their public law libraries assist with SRLs. SCATJ has been working with legal partners including South Carolina Legal Services and the South Carolina Bar to develop videos and other instructional packets for SRLs as well as find ways to increase legal representation to South Carolinians who cannot afford it.

The primary goal is to provide attorney representation for all. Attorneys provide not only good legal advice, but sensible counsel as well. Attorneys are trained to review the issue from many angles and provide information that allows individuals to make well-reasoned decisions.

Until attorneys for all becomes a reality, the SCATJ Commission is resolved to decrease barriers for people to represent themselves. The SCATJ Commission has a dedicated SRL Committee whose sole purpose is to address this issue. We welcome your ideas. Please feel free to post.

– RFW

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