Access to justice without legal aid in family proceedings and how we can help

16 January 2020

by Amanda Sime

Legal Aid Cuts

Legal Aid was drastically cut in 2013 – and since this time spending on legal aid has shrunk by more than £1 billion. A question that has been asked numerous times is whether this is fair on court users?

If you cannot qualify for legal aid, as most people cannot, you would be entitled to think that you have been abandoned and that you’re bound to lose your case. Paying at a per hour rate, your family law costs could quickly head into thousands of pounds.

Unrepresented parties

The proportion of litigants with legal representation has fallen from 60% to 33% since the cuts. As of 2017, cases where neither party had legal representation was 37%, the highest on record. The percentage of cases where one side had legal representation and one side self-represented has not yet been confirmed but is undoubtedly much higher.

The dilemma

Imagine yourself as a parent, having a dispute regarding a child but not particularly wanting to attend court. Then imagine having proceedings served on you and having no choice but to attend court, despite your financial position. You think you cannot afford legal representation, so you have no option but to represent yourself. You will now have to attend court, potentially for the first time, without someone who is comfortable in a court environment. You will then have to speak to a court about very emotional issues whilst trying to formulate a concise, properly worded argument, potentially against a qualified barrister, when you don’t understand the legal language being used.

How on earth can we state the law in England and Wales is fair and just when people are thrown into this awful, confusing position?

Additionally, this causes backlogs in the courts – if these self-representing court users are confused or not prepared for a case, this case may be pushed back. If such a person had correct representation, who could identify any issues before a hearing or state that the case is not relevant for a hearing, the backlog on the courts may not be quite so big. This raises the question of whether or not the legal aid cuts have actually saved any money?

The consequences

On a more personal level, this also prevents parents from seeing their children for an even longer amount of time. Is the cost saved by cutting Legal Aid worth the emotional distress of even just one child?

Many questions arise from these cuts, mainly regarding is this just and fair? To put such responsibility on people with little or no knowledge of the law? Is it right that people may be so overwhelmed and confused that they may feel forced to give up the fight to see their children or sort out their divorce finances?

The solution

At Canter Levin & Berg we understand that the last thing that people need when facing a crisis in their lives is to have it made even worse by the prospect of having to appear in court, quite possibly against legally armed opponents, and being expected to set out their legal case with potentially catastrophic consequences, often including access to children and life-changing financial settlements. While we can’t change the law concerning access to legal aid, we have the ability to provide you with access to reasonably priced fixed charges for our services, including initial advice and representation at court. You can see the fixed price charges here. An initial consultation could arm you with vital information about how best to approach your case and we offer this for a fixed price of £120 including VAT. You can pay by card or bank transfer. For £180 we can provide you with the initial consultation plus a letter to you summarising our advice and a legal letter to the other party which sets out your position and the solution that you are seeking. If you decide that it would be best to have legal representation at court, we can provide you with a fixed price per hearing, according to your requirements.

We know that times are tight, particularly when you are facing divorce and family proceedings, and we are here to help you during these difficult times. Don’t panic. Call free on 08000 371 171 or complete our online enquiry form for sympathetic and professional assistance.


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