Litigants in person not getting fair hearings
The impact of cuts in Legal Aid for family cases is having a knock on effect in courts and leaving many people exposed and having to represent themselves with often adverse effects.
Just this month the Common’s Justice Committee heard evidence from leading figures in the Family Law Bar Association, Resolution, the Association of Lawyers for Children and National Family Mediation, to the effect that people who represent themselves in Family Courts are not obtaining fair outcomes.
litigants in person
Such people are termed “litigants in person” and their numbers have increased dramatically since public (legal aid) funding was removed for most private family law cases in April 2012.
The Committee heard that the lack of representation in Court was a major issue, as many litigants in person struggled to understand the law, how to properly prepare their cases and then marshall their information and arguments in court.
Out of court settlement
Another major problem highlighted was that these litigants suffered as they failed to get strategic, focused, legal advice at an early stage, which in many cases could well lead to “out of court settlements”, hence avoiding the need for the court proceedings at all.
Daniel Prince, Family Partner at Pearson Solicitors, says the current problems come as no surprise and were largely predicted when the Legal Aid changes came in.
“We have tried to help the situation by offering free 30 minute interviews in our family clinic two days a week, but these meetings can only obviously provide a basic overview of the issues involved, and an explanation of the law in that field, but not go into any particular depth.
“It is for this reason that we often take cases on, either by providing full representation in Court, or providing background advice and support whilst the case is ongoing, with the client attending hearings on their own, on the basis that a fee arrangement is entered into, usually on the basis of monthly standing order payments
Even if the client cannot afford full representation they can at least take some comfort from the fact that we are here to answer their queries and concerns as their case progresses,” added Mr Prince.
Free legal clinic
For information and advice on family issues in the Oldham area, Saddleworth and Ashton Pearson Solicitors offer professional advice at the free family law clinics run every Tuesday and Thursday call 0161 785 3500 to book your appointment.
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Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.
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