www.mfjc.co.uk

The Merseyside Family Justice Council

website compiled by C Baker Contact Me

Representing Yourself

If you are thinking about representing yourself in family proceedings involving disputes about children this document may be helpful. The Courts in Merseyside will expect you to have read this document before you have a hearing in a case involving children.

The author of this website also operates a legal advice website where you can ask general
questions about Family Law. You can access the site at www.familylawquestions.co.uk.
The following is an extract from a Court of Appeal case on the importance of exercising Parental Responsibility appropriately and the need, if at all possible, to avoid disputes between adults over children.
The Guide below is intended for Self Represented Parties in Financial Remedy (divorce and money) cases.

Getting a McKenzie Friend


A McKenzie friend assists a litigant in person in and out of court. This person does not need to be legally qualified. The crucial point is that litigants in person are entitled to have assistance, lay or professional, unless there are exceptional circumstances. However, they can only be granted the right to be an advocate in a particular case with the leave of the judge and their is specific guidance on McKenzie friends that has been issued by the President of the Family Division and can be read by clicking on the button below.
A McKenzie Friend can help if you can't afford a lawyer and are going to court without one.

If want information about acting as a McKenzie Friend because you are thinking about helping someone at Court, the link below may be helpful.

Legal Advice

Community Legal Advice (CLA) is a free and confidential advice service in England and Wales paid for by legal aid.
If you are living on a low income or benefits, you may be eligible for free specialist advice from legal advisers on issues including: benefits and tax credits; debt, education; housing; employment; and family problems.

The advice is independent and confidential. Community Legal Advice will ask you questions about your problem and find out what help you need. You will be asked a number of questions about your finances to see if you are eligible for legal aid.

Community Legal Advice has a free translation service available in 170 languages.

Helpline: 0845 345 4 345

Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9.00 am to 8.00 pm, Saturday 9.00 am to 12.30 pm

Minicom: 0845 609 6677

Text: Text 'legalaid' and your name to 80010. The cost of your text will be at the standard rate for your operator.

Email:
emailhelp@communitylegaladvice.org.uk
Please note this email address is for feedback and complaints only.

Non-Legal Support


PSU offer non legal support to litigants in person, witnesses, their family members and other supporters.

This service is now available at Liverpool County Court on the first floor.

Contact details to be included when available.

Contact can be made at the Head Office at:

Room 2.15, Manchester Civil Justice Centre.
Tel 0161 240 5037.

Families Need Fathers - Both Parents Matter

If you are separating or divorced and are worried about not seeing your children - or worried about the effect the breakdown of your relationship might have on them, Families Need Fathers can provide you with the support and information you need. Our services are open to mothers, fathers, grandparents, new partners and extended families. We are an organization dedicated to helping parents and their families continue to provide the love, care and support that their children need after separation - and are there to support parents and families in doing this - especially if you are having problems in coming to an agreement on your own.
Families Need Fathers
You can open and download a PDF file containing contact details for Families Need Fathers (Both Parents Matter) by clicking on the button below.

Police Disclosure

A new form has been created for use by litigants in person for submission to Merseyside Police with a relevant court order.

Applications from litigants in person must have a court order with the application.

The documents or items requested in the order will be provided directly to the relevant Court.

HM Court services will pass the documentation to the relevant Judge whose decision it will be to disclose to the parties or not.

The relevant form can be downloaded by clicking the link below.

Cafcass Guidance

The following is Guidance given to Cafcass Officers regarding Litigants in Person and may be useful to Courts, Practitioners and Litigants in person when considering cases in which unrepresented parties appear.
There has been a rise in the number of people who are not represented in private law proceedings. This leaflet is designed to help practitioners to work effectively with them.

COMMUNICATIONS

Generally treat litigants in person as you would any other service user.

However, if you write to the court or the other party’s solicitor, send a copy of your letter to the litigant in person, just as you would keep both solicitors informed in cases where both parents are represented.

Observe the Cafcass guidelines about sending them documents, in particular:

  • You must not email litigants in person confidential case information unless they have a secure cjsm email address.
    • If they live/work near to your office, ask them to collect a copy of your report. If not, follow the
    • guidelines in the Cafcass Guidance on the sharing and transfer of case related data.
    • If the report has to be sent in the post/DX, allow enough time to ensure that the report reaches the litigant in person by the date specified in any court order.

Explain to the litigant in person that the court proceedings and documents, such as your report, are confidential. They may show them to someone else to obtain support, but that person must not tell anyone else about the proceedings or documents, unless the court says so. To do otherwise is a contempt of court, which is regarded very seriously.

GIVING ADVICE

You must not give litigants in person legal advice. If litigants in person cannot or do not choose to instruct a solicitor, then refer them to their local Citizens’ Advice Bureau. If they have access to the internet, refer them to the Cafcass public website, (www.cafcass.gov.uk), in particular the links page, which contains a list of organisations that might be helpful.

MEETINGS

Litigants in person may be more likely than other service users to wish to bring someone to their meeting(s) with you. It is your decision, but be prepared to justify it, whatever you decide.

If someone else attends the meeting, you must explain to that person that everything to do with the proceedings is confidential and that they must not disclose any of the information to anyone else, unless the court says so. If they were to do so, this could constitute contempt of court, which the court treats very seriously. If they are not willing to abide by this, then they cannot attend the meeting.

AT COURT

If a party is represented and that representative wishes to speak to you, make sure that the litigant in person and their supporter, if they have one, are included in the discussions.

It is for the court to decide whether a litigant in person is allowed to bring a supporting person into the courtroom. This person may be referred to as a McKenzie friend.

When you are giving evidence, adopt the same approach to a litigant in person as you would to a professional advocate. If you are asked a question by a litigant in person and you do not understand the question, say so. If you do not know the answer, say so. If you consider that you have already answered the question, say so. If the question strays beyond your remit and/or expertise, say so.

If it becomes difficult for a litigant in person to conduct him/herself dispassionately during a hearing, you must remain professional at all times and attempt to assist them where you can, as you would with any other service user. It is the court’s responsibility to prevent cross-examination being aggressive or oppressive. If you consider that the questioning is inappropriate seek guidance from the court as to whether you have to answer the question.