Getting help in Court

Legal Aid

The Government has decided that legal aid is not available for most court cases involving disputes about children or finances when people get divorced or separated.

However legal aid is still available in certain, restricted circumstances. It is worth contacting a solicitor to enquire as to your circumstances and if you still qualify for legal aid.

Cases involving a local authority intervening in a family and perhaps wishing to remove children from their parents’ care still, in most circumstances, qualify for legal aid.

Finding a Solictor

There are several ways to find a solicitor. Often personal recommendation is helpful. It is always a good idea to ask any person who is going to represent you what their experience and qualifications are.

The government has a website which allows you to type in your post code and find solicitors near to you. Don’t forget you need a solicitor who specialises in and has experience in family law. If you are paying for a solitaire to help you, if is a very good idea to ask them to be clear about their fees etc.

The government website can be found here.

Finding a Barrister

Some Barristers undertake what is called “Public Access” work, sometimes known as direct access. That means they will represent you at one or more hearings and undertake the advocacy and give advice. If you qualify for Legal Aid, you must use a solicitor first although you can still ask a solicitor to instruct a Barrister to represent you at Court or provide specialist advice. As always, there is nothing wrong with asking a Barrister about their experience and qualifications before you pay them money to represent you.

The Bar Council website contains more details about the services Barristers can provide and allows you to search for Barristers who undertake such work. You can find it here.

The Personal Support Unit - Support in Court

The Personal Support Unit is an independent charity. They support people going through the court process without legal representation. Their aim is to help you to manage your case for yourself. They do not give legal advice.

They have more than 500 trained and experienced volunteers, including post-graduate students training to be barristers or solicitors.The service is free, independent and confidential and the service is offered equally to everyone who asks.

Requests vary from the very simple to the complex. Some people require practical help and some just need to talk through their case. Many people request the emotional and moral support of being accompanied in hearings. You can come back them often as you need to.

There is a Personal Support Unit Office in Liverpool Family Court on the First Floor. There telephone number is 0151 296 2296
and they can be emailed at liverpool@thepsu.org.uk.

There is now also a PSU at Chester Family Court. Their contact details can be found on the website (link below).

Their website explains more about the services they offer. The website can be found here.

Getting a ‘McKenzie Friend’

A ‘McKenzie Friend’ (the name comes from a legal case from years ago) is someone who helps a person who has not got a lawyer inside and outside of court. They do not need to be and often are not legally qualified. They can be a friend who simply comes to court to support you or there are organisations and people who are ‘paid’ McKenzie friends i.e. they charge you a fee to attend court and help you out. Generally speaking they are not allowed to stand up in Court and speak on your behalf, but they can sit next to you, take notes and provide you with support and advice.

For more details on what McKenzie Friends can and cannot do, there is some guidance which can be downloaded here.

Solicitors and Barristers must adhere to standards of conduct and there are regulatory bodies to ensure that they do and they are insured if they make a mistake. There is no equivalent external regulatory body controlling the activities of McKenzie Friends.

For that reason, the Society of Professional McKenzie Friends, as a self-regulatory body, has been established. It aims to protect the interests of consumers and of courts. On this website you will find details of who their members are, the standards of conduct you can expect of any of their members, and a complaints procedure for those occasions when a ‘Professional’ McKenzie fails to live up to those standards. The website can be found here.

The Citizens’ Advice Bureau

Citizens Advice Bureaux offer free, confidential, impartial and independent advice from over 3,500 locations. These include high streets, community centres, doctors’ surgeries, courts and prisons. There is an office at the Liverpool Family Court (on the first floor).

Advice may be given face-to-face or by phone. Most bureaux can arrange home visits and some also provide email advice. A growing number are piloting the use of text, online chat and webcams. You can search for an office near you on their website, which can be found here.
© 2017 Website written and complied by Clive Baker Contact Me