Save Expense, Obtain Advice

19 Apr 2011

The Ministry of Justice has recently reviewed the Family Proceedings Rules making it “easier” for lay people to pursue applications in the Court without having the benefit of qualified or experienced legal representation.

The father decided that he needed to do something about the difficulties he was having and without seeking legal advice, made an application to the Court in England for enforcement of the existing Contact Order. He was informed by the Court of the date of the first Hearing and ensured that the mother was aware of his application and the date that she needed to attend Court.

He then travelled thousands of miles, at huge expense, to attend the Hearing. Imagine his surprise when the mother did not turn up. Imagine his dismay when he was informed by the Judge that he had completed the wrong forms, as a result of which there was nothing the Judge could do to progress his application and, in the circumstances, it was dismissed.

The father felt that he had no option then but to seek legal advice and instruct solicitors to start the process all over again on his behalf, before he had to return to his home and job overseas.

The Government are currently reviewing the eligibility criteria for the provision of Legal Aid and consideration is being given to removing Legal Aid altogether for family proceedings, even for those who are in receipt of State Benefits. Legal professionals and the judiciary fear that this will lead to a dramatic increase in the number of lay parties attempting to pursue or defend proceedings without having obtained the benefit of legal advice or representation.

In these times of financial hardship, we all want to save ourselves expense when we can and it is understandable that lay people will be tempted to pursue or defend Court applications without having secured legal representation. However, in order to avoid the possibility of finding yourself in the situation of this father, it is worthwhile and financially prudent to at least obtain the benefit of sound legal advice from experienced family solicitors before embarking on what can be a lengthy and emotional process.

Trethowans’ Family Team in Salisbury and Southampton offer a free initial half hour interview and will help you settle your family issues, preferably without having to resort to Court proceedings, but in the event that an application does prove necessary or you find yourself being served with an application, the Family Team can provide you with all the advice that you will need both before and during the process.