Just last month a husband attacked his wife in a courtroom by punching her repeatedly in the head causing her severe bruising. The man reacted in this manner when a family judge began to deliver a decision regarding the residence and contact arrangements in relation to the parties’ child.
The ‘litigant in person’, which means he represented himself without a solicitor, was restrained by the judge and court staff. The man was later arrested and charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and assault by beating, to which he pleaded guilty.
Following the legal aid cut backs in April of this year Lord Neuberger of the Supreme Court warned that this could lead to people ‘taking the law into their own hands’.
Legal aid is not as widely available in relation to family matters as it was prior to the 1st April 2013. As a result many people are either unsure as to their eligibility to receive legal aid and even if they are ineligible many are simply unable to afford legal representation. In these circumstances most are resorting to representing themselves at court.
Family matters including divorce and disputes relating to children can cause a lot of emotional upset and attending before the court in itself can be a stressful experience. People having to represent themselves in legal proceedings regarding such matters will understandably find it difficult to place their emotions and tensions to one side.
Many people, without the benefit of legal advice, do not realise that there are alternatives to litigation that can be less confrontational and less emotionally draining.
Mediation is a process whereby both parties are invited to attend before an independent person who will help you reach an agreement without the need for court action. The agreement is not legally binding but will serve as a point of reference if the agreement should break down in the future.
Each party instructs their own trained collaborative lawyer. Instead of letters, phone calls or court proceedings, both parties attend a face to face meeting to conduct negotiations. You will have your lawyer at your side throughout the process that will provide you with legal advice and guidance throughout.
Round table meetings
Negotiations can take place at a neutral venue where legal advisers can be on hand in separate rooms to advise, discuss and narrow the issues.
Whilst paying for family law advice can sometimes seem out of reach, there can be affordable options that will allow you to access the support you need throughout the process. Where your future livelihood and potentially access to your children are concerned, any family law advice you can afford to take could prove invaluable in the long run.
If you need legal advice and guidance regarding the alternatives to attending court, or for a quote for access to legal advice tailored to your individual needs, do not hesitate to contact a member of our friendly, approachable and dedicated family law team.
By Angharad Drew, Family Law Solicitor