Update from the US Study of Self-Represented Litigants

Update from the US Study of Self-Represented Litigants

The IAALS ( the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal SystemCases Without Counsel: Experiences of Self-Representation in U.S. Family Court Study in now underway in all selected jurisdictions.

Cases Without Counsel is a qualitative empirical research study consisting of one-on-one interviews with self-represented litigants in divorce, separation, and child custody/support cases.  This study builds on the methodology and results of the National Self-Represented Litigants Study (2013) and the NSRLP team is serving as consultants to IAALS researchers.

Four U.S. jurisdictions are participating in the Cases Without Counsel study:  Larimer County, Colorado; Multnomah County, Oregon; Davidson County, Tennessee; and Franklin County, Massachusetts.  To set the stage for interviews with self-represented litigants in each jurisdiction, the Cases Without Counsel research team has interviewed court staff, self-help center staff, and judicial officers who routinely interact with self-represented litigants in family cases.  Interviews with self-represented litigants themselves are now underway.

IAALS anticipates that final study results will be published in late 2015 and will be used to inform and develop recommendations for ways in which states can meet the needs of self-represented litigants, and improve the system as a whole. IAALS Executive Director, Rebecca Love Kourlis, describes the Cases Without Counsel study and the IAALS and NSRLP partnership as an important step forward in helping US courts increase responsiveness to all family court litigants.

The project is being conducted under the aegis of the IAALS Honoring Families Initiative (HFI).  HFI is dedicated to promoting new ways to handle divorce, separation, and custody cases that ensure better outcomes for children, less-adversarial approaches for parents, and greater accessibility, efficiency, and fairness for everyone involved in the family court process.

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