Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A landmark day in Family law and the implications for litigants in person

Today has seen the implementation of some major family law reforms including the introduction of a Single Family Court, a new Public Law Outline and the Child Arrangements Programme. When I wrote the 3rd Edition of my legal handbook Fathers Matter last year I set out changes the Government was expected to implement. I recently wrote a guest article for the Separated Dads website "Time to pay more than LIP service to Litigants in Person" setting out key changes. If you are interested in reading the piece then please click here.

On the subject of litigants in person, I came across an article in the Law Society Gazette today by Catherine Baksi entitled "Unrepresented parties become the majority in family law cases" which states that more than half of all parties in child related cases are unrepresented. You can read the article by clicking here. But this should surely come as no surprise at all what with the cuts to legal aid in private law children matters and prohibitive legal costs. The fact is litigants in person have been steadily increasing in recent years and even eleven years ago while I was researching and writing the first edition of my legal handbook Fathers Matter I met many fathers who were already representing themselves. By the time I wrote the third edition last year it was evident that numbers had significantly increased and I decided to expand the contents to assist those who find themselves either through choice or necessity unrepresented at court. 

Obviously the ideal is to keep parties out of the court process and the Government's reforms are geared to directing parties to alternative dispute resolution, particularly mediation. But the fact is that in high conflict cases where the parties cannot make their own arrangements and the matter proceeds to court the likelihood is that more of those parties will be litigants in person now and who must receive due consideration from the the court.

If you are interested in seeing how views are changing take a look at the interview with myself and Philippa Kennedy on BBC Breakfast in September 2004 by clicking here.

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