Legal aid cuts forcing people to represent themselves in court

From the start of April, legal aid will not be available for divorce and family law disputes causing concern for those with family issues at a time of economic crisis. The number of self-represented litigants or ‘litigants in person’ has already increased dramatically meaning that a lot of people are going to the courts without any legal advice.

Judges have expressed deep concern at this trend. Litigants in person generally do not adequately understand the court process and are unable to effectively argue their case. As a result, judges must often step in to advise them on the court process which eats away at their time and often causes friction with the other party (particularly if they have paid for legal representation). This slows the court process down enormously and it is feared that the courts will run up a huge backlog of cases as a result of these changes.

Litigants will also be unable to benefit from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in the High Court which has seen its funding withdrawn. The courts appear to be in disorder.

What steps can you take?

We strongly advise that you do not attempt to represent yourself in court. Whilst it may appear a cost effective option it could end up being very costly to your case. If you believe that there is absolutely no alternative, you should look into finding a ‘MacKenzie friend’. This may be a family member or a close friend who can give you support in court. They will not offer the same advocacy advantages of a family solicitor however they can be a source of comfort whilst you’re speaking in court. In order to take a MacKenzie Friend into court with you, permission from the judge must be obtained. You should also ask a solicitor to advise you on the protocol for MacKenzie Friends.

Ring our solicitors today for advice on funding your family law dispute

As you might expect, we are in no doubt that individuals should have professional legal representation in court. In today’s economic climate, worries over fees are inevitable however you may feel that the costs are more manageable once you’ve discussed all options with our divorce solicitors.

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