A recent survey amongst nearly 500 magistrates across the country has found that court hearings are not being conducted fairly as more and more people represent themselves in court due to cuts in legal aid. The latest figures suggest that 46% of those being seen in a private family court are representing themselves.
A person who is representing themselves can not be on an equal footing to someone with representation. 97% of those surveyed thought that self-representation had a negative effect on the work of the court. This can result in the wrong decision being made for the welfare of the children involved.
Magistrates struggle to come to come to the correct judgement in a situation where only one side has legal support, as there is such a huge balance in power. The methods and techniques for cross-examination can not be carried out correctly and effectively by someone with no legal training. This puts both adults and children in a worse situation than if both sides had legal help.
The court system has evolved to include legal representation for both parties and it is only since the cuts to legal aid that such a huge rise in self-representation has come about and presented new challenges for the magistrates and legal advisers in family courts. Other groups have contributed in the fight against the cuts to legal aid, including Gingerbread and Families Need Fathers.
To stand the best chance of a result that is fair for you and your children you will need a specialist family lawyer. There are processes and techniques used in courts that take years of training, making self-representation virtually impossible. In a heated situation it is also important to have someone representing you as you may be too emotional put your point across effectively and remember all the details.
In the event of a family break up, seek legal help before going to court to avoid losing out financially and not reaching a fair settlement for your children.