A report released by Citizen’s Advice has revealed that nine out of ten people representing themselves in the family courts suffer a significant impact on their health, finances and working lives.
Since severe cuts to legal aid in 2013, increasing numbers of separating couples have been forced to represent themselves as ‘litigants in person’ during court proceedings – particularly couples with children. However, most people are ill-equipped to negotiate the separation process without professional support, and the Citizen’s Advice report demonstrates just how difficult self-representation can be, detrimentally effecting individuals’ physical and mental health.
Since 2013 the family courts have seen a 30% rise in cases where neither party has access to legal help, and 90% of litigants in person report that the process has impacted negatively on their lives. In January, Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd highlighted the dangers of cuts to legal aid, pointing out that “our current court system is not really designed” for litigants in person.
Chief executive of Citizen’s Advice Gillian Guy explains: “The demands of going to court without legal representation can put people’s jobs and health at risk.
“For people representing themselves in the family courts, whether in a divorce case or to keep the legal right to see their children, the workload can be unmanageable. In extreme cases people are quitting their jobs so they have the time to do research before going to court.”
With many people feeling unable to seek legal support for their separation, a significant portion (7 in 10 people) are choosing not to enter into the process at all, leaving their relationship issues unresolved. However, there are alternatives to court which may provide an affordable and practical solution, such as mediation, arbitration and collaborative family law. These out-of-court methods of dispute resolution offer a faster, cheaper and less antagonistic approach to separation with the support of a trained, professional solicitor, mediator or arbitrator to ensure that each party is treated fairly.
Further benefits to these out-of-court techniques include greater privacy, flexibility, and an emphasis on collaboration, meaning that couples are more likely to come to a mutually beneficial agreement on each aspect of their case rather than get carried away with petty disagreements in court. For couples with children, mediation and collaborative family law can be particularly helpful, allowing families to make a practical plan for the future and find a solution that is in the children’s best interests.
To speak to an experienced family lawyer in the Thames Valley area, call 01628 634677 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Frances Lindsay & Co practises ‘a different type of family law’ – let us take the weight off your shoulders and help you find the right solution for your situation. Visit us at www.franceslindsay.co.uk.