Why Do We Need a Lawyer?: An Empirical Study of Divorce Cases

31 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2010

See all articles by Judith G. McMullen

Judith G. McMullen

Marquette University - Law School

Debra Oswald

Marquette University

Date Written: March 29, 2010


There has been a steady increase in the number of self-represented divorce litigants in recent years. Do divorcing couples just want to save money, or are other factors at play in the decision to go pro se in one’s divorce? This article looks at a random sample of 567 divorce cases in Waukesha County, Wisconsin, where a higher-than-average median income suggests that inability to afford a divorce lawyer is not the only factor in the decision to self-represent.

The article examines characteristics of litigants that are associated with proceeding pro se, and examines the length of the divorce process and the incidence of alimony awards in order to address the issue of whether divorce litigants are worse off if they choose to forgo counsel. The article also discusses the role of family lawyers in a system where so many parties to a divorce proceed pro se.

Keywords: divorce, self-representation, pro se, alimony

Suggested Citation

McMullen, Judith G. and Oswald, Debra, Why Do We Need a Lawyer?: An Empirical Study of Divorce Cases (March 29, 2010). Journal of Law & Family Studies, Vol. 12, p. 57, 2010; Marquette Law School Legal Studies Paper No. 10-16. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1580243

Judith G. McMullen (Contact Author)

Marquette University - Law School ( email )

Eckstein Hall
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201
United States

Debra Oswald

Marquette University ( email )

United States

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