Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) provides a new innovative approach to representation in Probate and Family Court, Housing Court, Land Court, and District Court. The Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts were the first to adopt this alternative type of representation. LAR allows a client to retain an attorney for just part of their case and to limit the scope of the work that the attorney does on their behalf. This particular type of representation is especially useful in family law matters due to the often contested nature of divorces, child custody/parenting time, and child support, and the need for representation at hearings for temporary orders, motions, or contempt.
Courts recognize the need for attorneys to assist clients with aspects of litigation, but perhaps not the entire case. Clients can retain counsel for a portion of their matter, such as for the drafting of a separation agreement or attending a hearing, and can limit the scope of the work done to that one portion or event. All of the work done on their behalf is charged on a flat fee or hourly rate schedule, and payment is due on the date the work is completed. If a client wishes for their attorney to attend another hearing or prepare additional work on their behalf, he or she can retain counsel again for another limited purpose. This is especially useful for clients who have the ability to handle the majority of the representation themselves and only need an attorney for a few portions of their case. Additionally, this approach is useful for financial reasons. Some clients lack the financial means to pay an upfront retainer, so paying on this per instance basis works best for them.
One example where LAR is frequently used is an uncontested divorce. A majority of clients choose to retain an attorney in this capacity to draft or review a separation agreement and to attend the divorce hearing. Most of the other paperwork can be completed by the client since it is significantly less complicated and time consuming when both parties can agree upon the terms of their divorce. We have seen an increase in the use of LAR for cases involving child support where both parties need to complete a financial statement prior to the hearing but are unfamiliar with certain terminology on the forms. Clients want to ensure they are well informed before entering into agreements, especially those for child support, due to the significant financial impact that they can have.
LAR is a great way to make legal representation more affordable and accessible to those in need. Each courthouse in Massachusetts has a list of attorneys who are trained and certified to provide this type of representation. It is always best to consult an attorney before entering into agreements that can be binding and have a lasting effect upon your and your family’s lives. LAR can provide you with peace of mind in a cost-effective manner.
If you need any assistance with a divorce or family law matter, please contact our office at 413-583-5196 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also see the subsequent posts in our series on divorce options, Mediation and Litigation.