Independent Advocate (McKenzie Friend) and Managing Director of Court Support & Legal Services LTD
Hi, I am the Managing Director of Court Support & Legal Services Ltd and I am a member of Resolution, an organisation that promotes a non confrontational approach to resolving family issues; I encourage a conciliatory approach, I will support you in your Court proceedings and provide you with a service when required.
I obtained my law degree from Staffordshire University, graduating in July 2017 with a 2:1 classification. Currently I am pursuing the Legal Practice Course with Master of Laws at The University of Law Nottingham, see my CV here.
I have experience in the legal field professionally and personally. I began my legal career as a paralegal in a well-established local family law firm, but built upon my knowledge and experience from being personally embroiled in Children Act proceedings over the last 5 years.
As an Independent Advocate (McKenzie Friend) in the Family Courts, I use my experience and knowledge to help litigants in person deal with a very difficult time in their lives with empathy and understanding. I have experienced both sides of the Family Court, so I am in a unique position to understand your situation and advise accordingly.
I will provide practical, procedural and emotional support in many areas of Civil and Family court processes, most of my work comes through recommendation.
The first meeting should be in person; however, I am offering remote meetings as well. This will enable me to discuss the issues with you in some detail and ensuring I have a detailed understanding of the case before any commitment is required. I will provide detailed options and an indication as to the potential costs of your case. For an appointment do not hesitate to contact me, or you are welcome to book on-line.
Typical areas I deal with are:
Divorce and Dissolution of Civil Partnership
Disputes over Children
Domestic Violence and Injunctions
How can I help you with your case:
If you are in a dispute over welfare issues or how much time your child should spend with each parent, whether it is a divorce, separation, problems involving an ex-partner or gaining access to your child, then I can help. Finding the answers to these situations and what your legal rights are can be tricky, to help you understand what your rights are, I will need to discuss the issues first. I suggest you send me a brief email and outline the problems, or you can contact me directly.
I advise you on the various applications that can be made through the Family Courts, and help you in court by:
Helping litigants in person in private and public law matters in Court;
Providing legal guidance;
Preparing Civil and Family Court documents;
In unusual cases, Right of Audience has been granted [see McKenzie Friend Guidance];
Support with testing evidence, your questions, Final Hearings and Fact Finding Hearings;
Strategic advice on your child dispute;
Advise on the mediation, collaborative law, arbitration and court processes;
Communicate with your ex-partner/spouse to try and reach agreement;
Refer you and your opponent to a skilled family law mediator;
Prepare court application where an ex-spouse will not sign the acknowledgement of service;
Explain the purpose of contact centres, process servers and other agencies;
Explain the role and remit of the CAFCASS officer and the judge;
Prepare the necessary court application forms;
Accompany you to court to offer moral support and advice;
Prepare a letter of instruction for an expert;
Help you to draft a witness statement in accordance with court protocol;
Advise on and prepare trial bundles for use in court;
Research case law and prepare a skeleton argument/position statement on your behalf;
Help you to instruct a competent barrister if appropriate;
Draft consent orders, and associated court forms, in financial proceedings;
Prepare a Will on your behalf;
Advise on and issue enforcement proceedings if appropriate;
For a more in-depth understanding of the services we offer, please visit the “Services” section of our website for all the important details of the services we are here to help you with. Also, as always, do not hesitate to contact us with any questions by using our booking a consultation, we offer the first hour at a fixed fee.
Going to Court:
You must consider mediation in most cases before going to court.
Mediation is not suitable in all cases, and the best option will depend on individual circumstances. We should also remember that for some couples court is the right option especially where domestic abuse, intimidation or an imbalance of financial power are key factors.
Why it is important to you to have the right person in court with you?
I have assisted parents and grandparents in private law proceedings, providing them with the knowledge and guidance to achieve their objectives. I can support you through every aspect of the process.
I think it is very important to negotiate before court proceedings; solicitors and barristers will usually welcome the support of an Independent Advocate (McKenzie Friend) This could help your case and could help to resolve matters smoothly as it may make negotiations less confrontational.
Cafcass and other experts:
I can advise you on expert reports and recommendations from Cafcass and other professionals.
I will help you to manage your dealings with authorities such as schools, social services, and the police.
How can I help you with your case, as your McKenzie Friend in the Family Court?
As a McKenzie Friend, I am able to offer support to help you with preparation of your case, giving support and guidance, through to assistance in court on the conduct of the cas. I do not provide legal advice in a capacity of a regulated solicitor. Please read the Court practice direction on Mckenzie friends for more details on the rules relating to Mckenzie friend.
There is a widely recognised presumption that a litigant in person (self-representing litigant) is entitled to have the assistance of a McKenzie friend whilst they are at court. If you want to rely on a McKenzie Friend you should notify the judge at the beginning of the hearing.
A judge will not usually refuse permission unless he or she believes that allowing the McKenzie Friend would interfere with the administration of justice. I have never encountered any resistance from a judge to support a case. However, if it ever occur, as an Independent Advocate I am still supporting you, I just will not sit in the courtroom.
Most cases can be resolved without the need for a contested hearing, but without assistance and experience, family law cases can become protracted. I can make a difference during the early stages, even before any hearing takes place to minimise conflict and the time taken to reach a conclusion.
The role of the McKenzie Friend is to assist the party rather than to represent them. The general rule is that a McKenzie Friend can support the party in conducting their case, but cannot conduct it for them. McKenzie Friends can be given rights of audience by the Judge and can take a more active role in the court hearing. This is important when a cross-examination is required, or where there are more sensitive and serious issues such as domestic violence.
The Judge will ask to see the CV of your McKenzie friend before the court hearing. My legal qualification has been considered in many cases, and the court has decided to grant rights of audience in exceptional cases.
Please contact me to discuss how I can assist you further.
How to contact Maria Lopez
I provide practical, procedural and emotional support in many areas of Civil and Family Court processes in the capacity of an Independent Advocate and McKenzie Friend, but you will be in control of your case and make the decisions on every step of your case.
Please note that I cannot provide legal advice or legal representation, I am not a Solicitor regulated by the SRA. If you require advice as to the legal merits of your application or on what to say in statements and or applications, you are advised to consult a solicitor, one that is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation (SRA).