Litigants in Person in the Family Court

16 January 2020

by Rebecca Charity

Access to justice is a fundamental right but it has been impaired by severe restrictions to eligibility for legal aid, particularly in cases involving children. Canter Levin & Berg family lawyer Rebecca Charity takes a look at the problem and how we are are trying to help.

The implementation of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012 made changes to the scope and eligibility of legal aid, removing some types of case from the scope of legal aid funding, and only allowing other cases to qualify if they meet certain criteria.

Funding is no longer routinely available for private family law, such as divorce and disputes over arrangements for children. Family law cases involving domestic violence, forced marriage or child abduction continue to receive limited funding.

The removal of legal aid for many private law cases has resulted in a change in the pattern of legal representation. Family Court statistics issued by the Ministry of Justice in March last year reported that around the time that the LASPO reforms were implemented there was a marked increase in the number and proportion of cases where neither party were represented, with an equivalent drop in the proportion of cases where both parties were represented.

The Children Act 1989 says that when a court determines any question, the child’s welfare must be the court’s paramount consideration. With the absence of legal aid in the majority of cases heard before the family court, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the court to properly consider the welfare of a child in question, if one of the parties is unrepresented.

There are fortunately services available to those without legal representation such as the Personal Support Unit, otherwise known as the PSU, who are based in 23 court locations in 18 cities across England and Wales, including Liverpool. The PSU aims to reduce the disadvantage of people facing the civil and family justice system without a lawyer.

However, those without legal advice and representation are considered to be at a substantial disadvantage.

Many face uncertainty about the court procedure and what is expected of them from one court hearing to the next.

At Canter Levin & Berg Solicitors, we have put together our fixed fee legal services with this in mind. We hope that our comprehensive list of fixed fees services will enable you to obtain the necessary legal advice and representation you need at a time when it is becoming increasingly clear how very challenging it is for most unrepresented and unsupported parties to handle a somewhat confusing court system.


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