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Family Law...Self Represented Parties

Lawyers will treat the self-represented litigant with dignity and respect – even if you think it is undeserved. Lawyers are obligated to treat all parties involved in a matter with courtesy and respect.

Laura Kanaan – July 2009 

It is common for at least one of the parties in a family law matter to represent themselves at some point in the litigation. Whether you are opposite a self-represented party, or the one representing yourself, the following is what can be expected of the lawyer involved with your matter:

  1. Lawyers will ask the self-represented litigant (the SRL) to communicate with them in writing rather than in-person or on the phone. This is not because the lawyer is trying to be difficult. Lawyers are bound by their code of professional conduct. To ensure accuracy with a SRL, and to ensure compliance with our rules, lawyers will insist on a written record of the exchanges;
  2. Lawyers cannot provide legal advice to a SRL. Not only are lawyers obligated to decline to provide legal advice to the SRL, they will recommend independent legal advice to them;
  3. Lawyers will treat the SRL with dignity and respect – even if you think it is undeserved. Lawyers are obligated to treat all parties involved in a matter with courtesy and respect. This duty extends to participants in the justice system such as court staff, witnesses, and opposing counsel; 
  4. Lawyers will not take advantage of a self-represented party. Taking advantage of a SRL does not assist either party in creating a durable agreement, nor will it win any favours with a judge if the matter proceeds to court; and
  5. Lawyers may insist on negotiating in the presence of a third party, such as a judge. This assists the parties in clearly recording agreements that are reached during negotiations.

This blog is not intended to be a comprehensive treatment of this topic or legal advice. Every case turns on its specific facts. If you or a family member believe you require support in this type of situation our MDW Law lawyers can help you determine your options. 

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