Government Report – “Litigants in person in private family law cases”
The Government has published the findings from a study into the experiences and support needs of litigants in person in private family law cases. It can be found here.
The purpose behind the report was to obtain evidence on the number of litigants in person (LIPs) in private family law cases and includes evidence regarding their behaviour, experiences and what support they need. The study was conducted over the period between January and March 2013 and involved data from a sample of 151 cases. The court hearing was observed, court file examined and the parties and professionals involved were interviewed. The Report’s authors also carried out focus groups with judges, court staff and lawyers.
The report is very detailed and contains a wide ranging number of findings and recommendations for policymakers. Among other findings, it states that the principle reason why someone represents themselves at court is an inability to afford a lawyer. Only around one quarter of LIP’s said they did so through choice. The report says that, perhaps understandably, a small number of LIPs were competent to represent themselves in all aspects of their proceedings. It goes on to say that the great majority were ‘procedurally challenged’ in some way struggling to advocate for their or their children’s best interests.
Problems for the courts
The report’s findings make reference to the problems for courts in dealing with issues such as non-appearance,refusal to engage in the proceedings or occasionally violent and aggressive behaviour by LIPs. It did not find any increase in the number of cases brought without merit or more frequently among LIPs than represented parties, although there is comment that some women LIPs were vulnerable when having to respond to applications.
Get legal advice
The study highlights the importance of initial legal advice at the outset of proceedings. With legal advice, parties can better identify the correct procedures, forms and how best to present their case. With legal advice, they are aware of the legal terminology, rules entitlements and the extent of the court’s powers. The report also mentioned the importance of taking legal advice before mediation. It can mean that cases could be resolved in mediation or through a negotiated settlement without the need for court proceedings at all.
We can help
At Paradigm Family Law we put the client at the heart of what we do. James is an accredited specialist with Resolution – first for family law and recognised by the Government as a HSSF advisor. Our lawyers can assist, advise and negotiate in relation to arrangements for contact and if necessary can represent you through the court process. If you think you need help or would like representation then please feel free to contact James on 0845 6020422 or email him in strictest confidence to [email protected].