Every year, thousands of people in the UK face court alone. Without help, they have to represent themselves while they go through civil disputes, a divorce, seek custody of their children, or face eviction from their home. They are forced to navigate a complex legal system alone, often against the professional legal representation of the other party.
The increase in cuts to legal aid over recent years has meant that thousands more people face the civil or family courts alone because they cannot afford to pay solicitors and Barristers fees. Their access to justice is limited by how overwhelming the legal system can be to those who have never faced it before, and many struggle to represent themselves effectively in court.
Court Support and Legal Services provide practical, procedural and emotional support in many areas of Civil and Family court processes. We offer guidance, explaining how the courts work, accompanying Litigants in Person (LIPs) at Family Courts to provide support and help afterwards; and provide legal services by assisting you in your case, helping you plan what you want to say in court, organising papers, filling in applications, drafting statements in the capacity of a Lawyer - Independent Advocate - McKenzie Friend.
Please note that we cannot provide legal advice or legal representation, we are not a Solicitor regulated by the SRA, those are solicitors or barristers that advise on questions of law about evidence or procedure. Apart from the extent of experience and no automatic “rights of audience”, the difference between an Independent Advocate (McKenzie Friend) and a solicitor is the cost of the proceedings.
Solicitors have expensive overheads and even to instruct them on a fairly straightforward matter can cost several hundred pounds or several thousands if contested court proceedings are necessary. A solicitor will often advise you at an early stage in your proceedings that your prospects of success are only 50/50 or sometimes less. As our an Independent Advocate (McKenzie Friend) works from home, she can usually achieves the same outcome as many solicitors, even in contested court proceedings, for less than their costs.
She is the Managing Director of Court Support & Legal Services, who is legally qualified and acts in the capacity of a Lawyer, Independent Advocate, McKenzie Friend supporting litigants in person (LIPs) in their Family cases.
Are you getting divorce?
Are you in a dispute over welfare issues or how much time your child should spend with each parent?
Are you thinking of going to court soon?
Do you need pre-court support with your case?
Do you need someone with you in court who is experienced in family law?
She will be able to assist you whether you simply require some initial advice to discuss your concerns and how they might be best addressed, or where the urgent intervention of the court may be required.
Using a McKenzie Friend
Sometimes parties act alone and sometimes with the 'right to reasonable assistance' of a McKenzie Friend. There is a presumption in favour of allowing a McKenzie friend to sit in on court proceedings so as to be able to provide that reasonable assistance. This ties in with Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which directs that "those who need assistance with the presentation of their case" should receive it.
Assistance means offering moral support, taking notes, helping with case papers and quietly giving advice on any aspect of the conduct of the case. But assistance does not extend to conducting litigation or acting as an advocate - and McKenzie Friends do not have a right to audience in court, unlike solicitors and barristers.
In exceptional cases, where a litigant in person is inarticulate or has severe health problems and is unable to present the case, some judges have allowed McKenzie Friends to address the court directly. The latest guidance in relation to McKenzie Friends is set out in a 2010 Practice Direction.
At any point during family proceedings, the client, supported by a McKenzie Friend, is entirely free to consult a solicitor if the client decides. In very exceptional cases, a good McKenzie Friend will advise clients to seek appropriate legal advice.
Equal Treatment is an Entitlement for LIPs
The fact is that litigants in person often feel overwhelmed by the court process especially where the other party has legal representation. Litigants in person must be treated equally before the law and have equal access to justice. Judges have a duty to ensure a fair trial by giving them due assistance to achieve this. But that duty does not extend to giving legal advice. Nor can a judge be seen to favour one party over another, even if that party is a litigant in person.
Litigants in person should bear in mind that a judge's role is to determine both the facts of the case and the law applicable to those facts and presenting a case involving difficult points of law is no easy task for lawyers with many years experience, let alone a litigant in person. Which is why it is expected that with the increasing numbers of litigants in person, judges will need to be exceptionally proactive in managing cases where litigants in person are involved, particularly where the other party has legal representation, to ensure that the litigant in person is not disadvantaged in the proceedings.
Court Support and Legal Services provide practical, procedural and emotional support in many areas of Civil and Family court processes in the capacity of a Lawyer - Independent Advocate - McKenzie Friend. Please note that we are not a Solicitor regulated by the SRA.