Justice Minister Chris Grayling faced outrage in the press earlier this year for a policy that banned books being sent to prisoners, and now is the recipient of widespread criticism over cuts to legal aid. Solicitors are now taking Grayling to a judicial review, concerned that recent changes to the family law system are detrimental to parents going through the process of separation.
Despite the Justice Minister asserting that reforms are “going exactly to plan”, the House of Commons Justice Committee is undertaking an investigation of the results of the legal aid cuts made by the coalition in April 2013. Funding support for private family law cases was withdrawn except in cases of domestic violence, meaning that increasing numbers of couples seeking dispute resolution are representing themselves without professional legal advice.
When it comes to financial and children’s issues, a lack of legal representation can make it incredibly difficult for couples to negotiate separation, and legal cuts have produced a two-tier system separating those who can afford legal advice and those who have to go it alone. Now, almost 50% of all parents pursuing court divorce do so without legal help, prompting an outcry from family law solicitors and organisations who claim that the family law system is ‘in crisis’.
The government claims that the decline in representation has greatly reduced court delays, while Sir James Munby, President of the High Court Family Division has been actively promoting mediation as a quick and cheap alternative to court. Mediation does indeed offer an effective solution for couples and parents seeking dispute resolution, but it is not for everyone, and many people are still unaware that the service is available to them. In fact, following cuts to legal aid there has been a decline of almost 40% in couples seeking mediation. Twice as many children are now caught in the middle of extended parental disputes as litigants-in-person do not have the knowledge or resources to negotiate family law cases without help.
At Frances Lindsay & Co we want to help separating couples and families find the right solution for their situation with minimal cost and disruption. We understand the frustrations and challenges of divorce and are doing our best to work around the changes in the system to offer our clients affordable and beneficial services via fixed-fee options and out-of-court alternatives like arbitration, mediation, and collaborative family law. Get in touch to discuss your situation with a down-to-earth, friendly family solicitor at Frances Lindsay & Co, or book an appointment at our Thames Valley offices.
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