Limited Assistance Representation
Unless you are involved in a divorce proceeding where you and your spouse are amicable and can readily agree to all terms of the dissolution, you may have to prepare for an expensive and often lengthy battle. Many contested divorces run into the tens of thousands of dollars as couples battle over child custody, visitation, support, spousal maintenance, and property distribution.
Not all couples can afford to spend thousands of dollars on a divorce or legal separation and may not qualify for low income legal assistance, if available. Handling the case by yourself may not be an option since you must be aware of and follow court rules, know the intricacies of the discovery process, and how the divorce laws impact your case. To address the situation, Massachusetts has adopted “Limited Assistance Representation” (LAR) in the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court.
How LAR Works
In some instances, attorneys can make a special appearance for a client in a criminal or civil case, but these are rare and often for very limited reasons. But the LAR program is designed to assist any party in a divorce proceeding by providing limited representation in a defined area.
Attorney Ward will appear in court as your attorney for one (or more) specific court events – such as a motion hearing or a status conference. This can help to clarify and even resolve some issues that may be hindering a final resolution
Attorneys who wish to become a limited assistance representation Boston lawyer are required to:
- Read the Limited Assistance Representation Training Manual (available online) or attend a program approved by the LAR Training Protocol
- Draft an agreement with the client that defines the scope of the limited representation such as the issues that will be handled and that the client has given informed consent
- Serve the client and court a Notice of Limited Appearance
- When filing any documents, include on the signature page: “Attorney of [Client] for the Limited Purpose of [Court Event]”—attorneys who fail to include this language or attends an event outside the scope of their representation will be considered to have entered a general appearance on behalf of the client. The attorney can change this only by filing a new Notice of Limited Appearance with any subsequent pleading or document.
- When the representation has concluded and issues within its scope completed or satisfied, the attorney must file a Notice of Withdrawal. This Notice is required following each Notice of Limited Appearance that was filed.
If the attorney does not file the Notice of Withdrawal, the court will consider the attorney to continue as the client’s attorney of record for all proceedings, regardless if the issues for which the representation was made have been concluded.
Examples of LAR
Clients can utilize the services of a limited assistance representation Boston lawyer in the following circumstances:
- Consultation only—advise you of your legal options and how to further proceed
- Offer a second opinion if already represented—if you are unsure of the methods or advice given you by your presently retained attorney, a LAR lawyer can give you a second opinion or provide you questions to ask of your retained attorney, or review the documents or pleadings that have been prepared
- Act as advisor for the client during proceedings
- Prepare documents on your behalf—referred to as “ghost writing,” a LAR lawyer can draft your pleadings or other documents to be filed so long as he/she inserts the language “prepared with assistance of counsel” on the document. The attorney is not required to sign it, nor does he/she have to make a court appearance for or with the client. The client remains responsible for any content in any such document not signed by the attorney.
Retain the Law Firm of Heather M. Ward
Heather Ward is a Boston divorce lawyer with extensive experience in representing clients involved in divorce and separation proceedings. She is also a limited assistance representation Boston lawyer who can assist any individual who has a limited budget, is unsure about the representation provided by another attorney, or who simply needs limited assistance in preparing certain documents for filing.
If you have questions about the LAR program or would like our assistance in your divorce matter, schedule a consultation with Ms. Ward by calling (617) 903-8955.