This summer, the Brooklyn Family Court Child Support Study hopes to improve the quality of legal assistance to self-represented litigants in child custody proceedings. The study, conducted by the National Center for Access to Justice, started when Pfizer Inc.’s legal department made available summer associates to watch family court proceedings and record their findings. The observers will track whether magistrates explain to self-represented litigants the reason for the hearings, explain the courtroom proceedings, and/or exhibit irritation with the litigants. Then, the observers will follow up with the litigants in a brief interview to discern whether the litigants found the proceeding to be fair and whether they understood what took place in the courtroom. At the end of the sixty-day observation period, Deloitte LLP will analyze the results of the study. The National Center for Access to Justice hopes to complete a report by September to address whether proceeding self-represented has an effect on child support case outcomes, whether magistrates could move through dockets more efficiently, and whether a correlation exists between the legal support that family court litigants receive and their perception of the fairness of the system.
Katherine Kirk is a third year law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and contributes to IAALS Online. Please direct inquiries about this post to firstname.lastname@example.org.