• Family Courts - Proceedings often unfair to litigants in person

    26.01.15

    Legal Aid cuts in 2013 have, unsurprisingly resulted in a greater increase in people representing themselves in family matters but are these people getting a fair deal? The number of private law cases where both parties were represented fell by 40% in July to September 2014 compared to the same quarter the previous year. Such cases now amount to 28% of all private law cases, the remainder of course being made up of one or both of the parties being unrepresented.

    The Ministry of Justice released the Litigants in Person in Private Family Law Cases Report on 27 November 2014 which highlighted the difficulties faced not only by the unrepresented party but also difficulties faced by the Judge and Legal Representatives for the other party in ensuring that the case is managed appropriately.  The lack of legal knowledge and full understanding of procedures can often lead to increased acrimony and potentially lead to unfair outcomes for the person who is unrepresented.

    The Government’s objective when introducing the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offender’s Act 2012 in April 2013 was to divert more separating couples into mediation. Although there has recently been more public awareness of the mediation process, lack of legal signposting and advice means that people are still not entering mediation quickly enough following separation as they are not aware that this is an option.  People simply feel they have nowhere to turn and what is not known of course is how many simply give up, not pursuing their financial claims or time with their children following separation.

    Legal Aid for mediation was not adversely affected as a result of the Legal Aid cuts and so continues to be available subject to a financial assessment. If you are assessed by us as eligible, then mediation will be free for you.  Further, as from 3rd November 2014 the Government extended this funding to also cover the first mediation session for both parties provided at least one party to the mediation is eligible for legal aid.

    Let Laceys Mediation assist!! Even if you feel a Court Order is necessary, our experienced Mediators can help narrow issues prior to any proceedings and often assist to avoid proceedings altogether.  As Mediators, we are impartial and so will not be offering legal advice although we do provide legal information such as court procedures and relevant legal factors considered in family matters.  Remember, even once Court proceedings are issued, parties are still able to mediate in the hope that matters can be resolved and those Court proceedings can then come to an end. 

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