22nd Jan 2018

Representing yourself in family proceedings?

Navigating the legal process on your own can seem daunting to say the least. The law can be complicated and there are nuances which are indiscernible to the untrained eye. But for many, securing legal advice from the start to the finish of your case is simply unaffordable. Having a guide to hand which can explain in simple terms both the law and procedure as well as the practical points of what will happen at court could therefore be an invaluable resource. In this blog, Family Law in Partnership associate Carla Ditz reviews ‘The Family Courts for Litigants in Person. A Handbook for Litigants in Person’ by Lucy Reed, Barrister at St Johns Chambers, Bristol.

Help is at hand!

In truth, there can be no substitute for the support and guidance that a good family lawyer can provide. The book identifies this point clearly. But as lawyers, who see, every day, the hefty financial burden that legal fees can present, we appreciate that not everyone will be in a position to afford legal representation throughout their case. But this is no reason why a litigant in person should not be able to manage their case and find their way through the family law system alone. With an ever increasing number of litigants in person in the court system, enabling these individuals to ‘go it alone’ is becoming increasingly important. As the book mentions, there is no shortage of information on family law out there. The problem is perhaps that there is too much information and too little time to absorb it, filter through it or understand what is relevant. The book aims to collate both the practical information about being in court itself, what documents are required when preparing your case and the relevance of such documents and of course, the legal foundations and basis for applications made.

The book is divided up into 7 parts:

  1. Understanding the System
  2. Putting it into Practice
  3. Divorce, Separation and Finances
  4. Children
  5. Domestic Violence and Abuse
  6. After Judgment
  7. Toolkit and Resources

The final section, Toolkit and Resources, provides some useful definitions of terms you may encounter during the court process as well as a helpful list of sources available on the internet which may be of use both during and after your case.

Sending you on your way

Instructing a lawyer is not just about someone advising you on the legal process. It is also about the support that a good lawyer can provide throughout that process as well as recognising when specialists are required to assist in a case.

Occasionally, the particular scenario may be relatively straightforward and an individual may in fact feel confident enough to proceed without a lawyer by their side. But whether your case is relatively straightforward, complex but manageable or potentially filled with complicated legal and emotional challenges, you should always consider getting advice from a lawyer at the outset, to send you on your way. The value of a first meeting could be instrumental in setting the tone of proceedings and identifying any pitfalls or challenges that lie ahead. It is also important to remember that your experience of family breakdown will inevitably impact upon your relationship with your former spouse/partner going forwards. This experience will include the legal process required to get you to where you need to be. Managing this process well could therefore pay dividends further down the line.

As a litigant in person, you are by no means expected to know the law like the back of your hand. The courts are sensitive to this. But this does not mean that litigants in person need be at a disadvantage. Lucy Reed’s guide is comprehensive yet accessible and for many, could give them the steer they need in an uncertain time.

For more information on the best way to manage your case, please speak with one of our experienced divorce lawyers on T: 020 7420 5000 or email us at hello@flip.co.uk Please also see our dedicated webpage Funding Your Legal Fees for more information about how to finance your case.