Legal Aid was scrapped for the majority of family matters in 2013, which has led to a big rise in the number of people representing themselves in court.
Gemma Tattersall, of Lanyon Bowdler Solicitors in Oswestry, takes a look at the statistics...
Many in the legal profession protested about the removal of Legal Aid in 2013, fearing the implications on the breakdown of the family, access to justice and the increased pressure this would have on the court system.
Indeed, six years on, President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew MacFarlane, has reported that there has been a significant rise in judges having to deal directly with what he called ‘rowing parents’. He went on to say that many hearings could be avoided and called for a public education programme on how to be a parent after splitting up.
One statistic in the Law Society Gazette recently reported that as many as 80% of family cases now involve one or more unrepresented parties. Not only do litigants-in-person take up more of the judge’s time, which can cause further pressure upon and delays with the courts, but parties are no longer benefiting from legal advice and support during the court process - which can be highly emotive - and thus might not be putting their best case forward.
So what can you do if you have limited funds available?
A little bit of advice and assistance can go a long way. At Lanyon Bowdler we offer fixed fee appointments where we can advise regarding the court process and the likeliness of the court making certain directions and orders. We can also help with the preparation of application forms and statements, and representation at certain hearings.
In particular, many clients find a one-hour fixed fee appointment at the outset of any proceedings extremely helpful and money well spent.
Look at all your options at the outset. Court proceedings should be a last resort and suitable mediation should always be explored - you can self-refer without the assistance of a solicitor.
If you are on a tight budget, it may well be the case that you are entitled to Legally-Aided mediation sessions. Other alternatives to mediation include family therapy and separated parenting programmes.
For more advice, contact the specialist family team at Lanyon Bowdler on 01691 652241 or visit www.lblaw.co.uk
Pictured: Gemma Tattersall, of Lanyon Bowdler Solicitors.