Summarised by Dr Angharad Rudkin

Child Clinical Psychologist, University of Southampton at

Angharad is an experienced Clinical Psychologist working with children and families. She supports OnlyMums & OnlyDads in delivering accessible summaries of key research around families and the effects of separation and divorce on children and those who care for them.

Standing Alone – Going To Court Without A Family Lawyer.

March 2016. Citizens Advice Bureau

The family courts are vital in helping people resolve a range of issues. However, the way people use them is changing. Since funding for legal aid was reduced in 2013, there has been an increase in the number of people going to the family courts without a lawyer (as a ‘litigant in person’). Two-thirds of our advisers report an increase in the number of people they see going to court without representation since 2013.

The report identifies eight ways to improve the process of going to the family court alone:

Litigants in person need a clear way to navigate through the court process

Information should be easy to find, consistent, reliable and user-friendly

Paperwork and processes should be designed with the layperson in mind

Since funding for legal aid was reduced in 2013, there has been an increase in the number of people going to the family courts without a lawyer (as a ‘litigant in person’).

The physical court environment must help, not hinder, litigants in person

Litigants in person need the tools to cope with pre-trial negotiations

Guidance for legal professionals needs universal adoption

People need more information to make the most of lawyers’ services

Evidence requirements shouldn’t be a barrier to those eligible for legal aid

The report makes three key recommendations about how courts, professionals and other service providers can address these challenges:

Litigants in person need access to reliable advice and information to determine the validity of their case; investigate alternatives to court; progress their case through different stages; represent themselves effectively and deal with outcomes.

Processes, physical courts and professionals’ behaviour should respond to the increased numbers of litigants in person by ensuring best practice for working with laypeople is provided consistently.

Support for vulnerable people should be more easily accessed. Victims of domestic abuse should be able to access the legal advice and representation to which they are entitled. Other vulnerable groups, such as people with mental health problems, should be signposted to appropriate services.

 

 

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