The Courts, and particularly the family Courts, are getting filled up with parties who are not represented by lawyers. These people are known as ‘litigants in person’. This is largely as a result of the removal of Legal Aid for most family cases.
The Courts have tried, in part, to deal with this by producing guides for litigants in person. However, Courts can be daunting and intimidating places for the majority of people and much worse for people going through the trauma of separation. No one really chooses to go to court, in the main they have exhausted the alternatives, for example mediation or negotiations.
As a solicitor, I am aware that for some we might be unaffordable, so what do you do if you cannot afford a solicitor or a barrister, but you wish to be supported through the process. There are some alternatives that can help.
McKenzie Friends can be just that - a friend, relative or someone who works for a charity, but there are also professional McKenzie Friends. They offer moral support for litigants in person, they can take notes, help with case papers and give advice on any aspect of the conduct of the case.
What they may not do is act as litigant in person’s agent in relation to proceedings or manage the case outside Court, for example, signing Court documents, address the Court and make oral submissions to the judge, or cross examine witnesses. They are usually familiar with the Court process and therefore can provide invaluable support at a very difficult time.
If you wish to rely on such support, you will need to let the Court know who you are proposing to invite along as a McKenzie Friend in advance of the hearing. Usually, however, judges are happy for such a person to attend and support a litigant in person.
There are also volunteer McKenzie Friends who work for certain domestic abuse charities and these can be accessed through such charities.
If you would like to know more about McKenzie Friends or full representation by a solicitor or barrister including advocacy, in family proceedings, please do not hesitate to contact family lawyer Gemma Gillespie on tel: 01892 515022 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org