Every family law case is different and depends on a number of unique factors. That is why family law courts throughout the state of Illinois and beyond handle cases on an individual basis. In fact, family law judges often take a great deal of time and care to consider the unique merits of divorce and child custody disputes to ensure that their decisions are appropriate and fair. Unfortunately, however, there are instances where the results of the case depend less on the details and more the fact that one party was not privileged to legal counsel.
Family law covers a broad range of issues, including everything from restraining orders to child support, and thousands of cases are addressed in court every year. The American Bar Association recognized the needs of low income individuals facing civil cases in 2006, and promoted changes to the family law system that would guarantee legal representation to qualifying parties. Those efforts were largely in response to the fact that legal counsel can play a major role in the outcome of civil cases. According to one study, parents that chose to represent themselves in child custody disputes were less likely to win, and joint custody rulings were granted much more often in cases where both parties had legal representation.
And while it is true that many family law judges will attempt to guide parents through the process of representing themselves, they can only provide a degree of impartial assistance. That is why legislators and advocates in one state are considering measures to ensure that everyone is entitled to legal representation in civil cases just as they are in criminal cases.
Source: Sacramento Bee, “State considers providing lawyers for high-stakes civil disputes,” Brad Branan, March 26, 2014