A family law facilitator is a legal professional who is experienced in dealing with family law related court cases. Facilitators often work for the court system, and represent neither the petitioner nor the respondent. Many jurisdictions offer the services of a family law facilitator to act as a neutral party to provide a variety of services. In some jurisdictions, the facilitator may also act as a mediator between the parties to help reach an agreement that can be presented to the court. Not all states use family law facilitators, their clerks helping individuals choose the correct forms for their needs. To explore this concept, consider the following family law facilitator definition.
Definition of Family Law Facilitator
- One who facilitates, or helps bring about an outcome, by providing indirect assistance in a family law matter.
Scope of a Family Law Facilitator’s Assistance
Family law facilitators are often attorneys, paralegals, or legal assistants experienced in family law court proceedings. Even if a facilitator is an attorney, he cannot act as such in his role as facilitator, nor can he represent any individual who has sought his help as a facilitator in court. While the family law facilitator generally keeps information confidential, he has no responsibility in attorney-client privilege.
A facilitator should not be considered a replacement for obtaining the counsel of a qualified family law attorney. The facilitator cannot plead anyone’s case in court, but he may help by showing individuals which court forms are needed for a specific court action, and how to complete those forms. He may also refer individuals to other agencies that may be of assistance, such as a legal aid clinic, self-help law center, or attorney referral service.
Duties of a Family Law Facilitator
In most jurisdictions, family law facilitators are employed by the court, and are located within the courthouse or city hall of the county in which they operate. Facilitators are on hand to provide citizens with information about various court procedures related to marriage, divorce, child custody, child support, modifications of current orders, and other family law matters. They may also assist individuals acting “pro se,” meaning they are representing themselves with no attorney. The exact services provided by the facilitator will depend on the jurisdiction in which they are located. Some may offer more services than others, but assistance may take the form of:
- Helping individuals calculate child support based on state laws
- Helping individuals find the right legal forms and providing instructions for completing the forms
- Reviewing forms to ensure they are property filled out prior to filing
- Explaining legal terms or jargon to individuals
- Helping people understand court proceedings, filing fees, and schedules
- Referring individuals to legal or social service organizations and resources
In some counties, a family court facilitator acts as a mediator in family law cases. In this instance, the facilitator gathers information, visits with the parties, and helps them come up with an agreement. This is often done in child support and custody disputes. After an agreement is reached, it is presented to the judge overseeing the case.
What a Facilitator Does Not Do
In most jurisdictions, family law facilitators help people free of charge in their divorce, child custody, or child support matters. There are certain things that a facilitator cannot, and will not do. Any individual involved in a legal action needing assistance in the following areas, he should seek the help of an attorney:
- Help people who are currently represented by an attorney
- Take sides in family related disputes
- Give legal advice or help a person develop a legal strategy
- Determine or discover facts pertaining to a case
- Predict how case will turn out
- Promise accuracy in the information an individual has provided in the forms they file
- Assist individuals with criminal issues
- Help individuals with wills or estate plans
- Assist individuals with name changes
- Assist with adoptions
Getting Help From a Facilitator
Any individual seeking the assistance of a family law facilitator should contact the family court in the county in which they reside. Each jurisdiction has specific rules and regulations that must be followed, and many require appointments to speak to the facilitator. When meeting with the facilitator, the individual should bring all information and important documents related to the case.
Related Legal Terms and Issues
- Petitioner – The individual who initiates legal proceedings by filing a petition, also referred to as “plaintiff” in some cases.
- Respondent – The individual against whom a petition is filed, also referred to as “defendant” in some cases.
- Jurisdiction – The legal authority to hear legal cases and make judgments; the geographical region of authority to enforce justice.
- Attorney-Client Privilege – The legal requirement that an attorney may not reveal any communications with a client, enabling the client to speak freely and honestly with his or her attorney.
- Pro Se Litigant – A party to a legal action acting without legal counsel.