Representing Yourself in Court
Since the changes to Legal Aid in April 2013, there are now a greater number of people representing themselves in court without instructing a Solicitor.
There are various informative leaflets on the www.justice.gov.uk website that outline in detail the divorce procedure D183 etc. and also Children and Ancillary Relief applications. Leaflet EX50 explains the court fees in full. Many courts are now operating in court duty family solicitor schemes and duty in-court mediation schemes to assist unrepresented parties. Family courts are fairly informal and there is wearing of wigs in court. If at any time you do not understand what is happening, speak up.
Support Material for Self-representation in court
This information sheet outlines the support available to those intending to represent themselves in court on family issues, which is often referred to as being a ‘litigant in person’.
A guide to representing yourself in court, produced by the Bar Council (downloadable at the bottom of this page).
Family Court Support - http://www.familycourtsupport.co.uk/litigation.htm
- There are also a number of books advertised on this website like ‘Family Courts without a lawyer: a handbook LIPs’; Advocacy in Family Proceedings’ and ‘Do your own divorce – a practical guide on divorce without a lawyer’.
- This organisation also provides training specifically to become a McKenzie friend.
- This organisation also provides training to court service staff, lawyers and the judiciary on how to deal with those representing themselves in court.
Families Need Fathers - www.fnf.org.uk
- Factsheets for the self-representing available through Families Need Fathers costs between £1 and £2 for members and £2.50 for non-members
- They also have an article on their website about representing oneself which includes a FAQ section with the following four Q&A:
- Could you do a decent job?
- Why might you want to represent yourself?
- What other considerations are there?
- Where can I obtain practical help (includes info on McKenzie friends, FNF volunteers, pro-bono solicitors and CAB’s. Also Personal Support Unit at the Royal Courts of Justice and PRFD offers people to accompany Litigants in Person to hearings but offers no legal advice)?
Wikivorce - www.wikivorce.com
- Articles on preparing court bundles and how to cross-examine. Client will be required to sign up to Wikivorce in order to access these and other resources from the website.
Rights of Women - www.rightsofwomen.org.uk
- DIY guides for those self-representing in court including one on obtaining a Non-Molestation Injunction and representing yourself in Children Act Proceedings.
Gingerbread - www.gingerbread.org.uk
- Fact sheets available for separating parents and a community site and support which can be downloaded or emailed in separate packages dependant on support required
Direct.gov - www.direct.gov.uk
- Step by step guide for completing forms when filing for divorce:
Citizens Advice Bureau -www.citizensadvice.org.uk
- Some bureau's assist with completing forms by appointment
Shared Parenting Information Group (SPIG) UK - www.spig.clara.net
- Miscellany – a selection of articles about accessing the courts
- A friend in court – information about being accompanied in court
- Litigant in person letter to the court
Resolution - www.resolution.org.uk
- Resolution’s Good practice guide on dealing with litigants in person
- Useful resources including fact sheets to provide those self-representing with some legal background, hints and tips.
Law Society - www.lawsociety.org.uk
Helpful National Organisations
- Advice guide – online help from the Citizens’ Advice Bureau on welfare benefits, debt and housing rights. www.adviceguide.org.uk
- Advice Now – provides good information on the law and your rights with sections on parents living apart, finances and family mediation www.advicenow.org.uk
- Legal Aid Agency – National list of providers of independent legal advice in limited circumstances www.gov.uk/legal-aid
- Divorce Aid – useful range of legal, financial and emotional information www.divorceaid.co.uk
- Divorce Resource - in depth legal, financial and emotional information www.divorceresource.co.uk
- Grandparents Association – offers support and advice to grandparents particularly those who are having problems seeing their grandchildren. www.grandparents-association.org.uk
The Courts recognise that parents are generally best placed to know what is in their children's interests and are encouraging parents to work this out together, with the assistance of a qualified mediator. They acknowledge that mediation is not suitable in every case but for the vast majority it represents an opportunity for you to find a solution that fits best with your family’s circumstances.
Since April 2011, anyone applying to the Courts for assistance in resolving a dispute about parenting or finances following relationship breakdown has had to comply with the Pre-Application Protocol. This requires you to attend a meeting to learn about mediation – a Mediation Information Meeting (MIAM).
Legal aid is no longer widely available for divorce proceedings although if you are seeing a mediator and are legally aided you will be entitled to Help with Mediation if you instruct a solicitor who undertakes Family Legal Aid work.
National Family Mediation (NFM) is a network of professional family mediation providers based in England and Wales that work with families affected by relational breakdown. All providers aim to help clients achieve an outcome that works best for them and their family
If you would like to get more information about mediation and/or make an appointment you can contact NFM direct on 0300 4000 636 or you can contact a NFM family mediation provider in your area.
All services also take referrals from Solicitors, the court or other helping / support agencies.