What new help is there for Litigants in Person in Family cases?
Since the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012 on 1 April 2013, legal aid for family matters has been severely restricted to only those with exceptional circumstances or instances where domestic violence is involved. This has resulted in many people not having access to legal representation. A recent Panorama documentary, DIY Justice, highlighted issues that have arisen since the severe cuts in Legal Aid funding.
Many individuals are having to represent themselves at Court alone, with no support from a legal professional. This can be a highly stressful scenario, made up of long, confusing forms, and intimidating court rooms.
It would appear that the Ministry of Justice have begun to recognise that support is needed for people in this unfortunate position, and on 1 April 2015 they released some guidance in order to help people understand what is required from a litigant in person.
The Ministry of Justice published guidance about domestic violence and child abuse which explains what evidence is required to show that one is entitled to Legal Aid due to domestic violence, and it also includes template letters in respect of domestic violence and child abuse.
The Family Justice Council (a body under the Ministry of Justice) have also released two new videos to help litigants in person. Both are available on the AdviceNow website. The first video, Representing yourself in family court, shows how to represent yourself in Court. The second video, How to fill in your financial statement (Form E) – England and Wales, explains how to complete court forms in relation to financial disclosure.
As a firm, we take part in Pro Bono activities such as attending the Citizens Advice Bureau, and frequently meet people who are trying to pursue their case alone. We recognise that some litigants in person may only need help with one aspect of their case, and are able to work through the rest independently. If you feel that we can help with certain aspects of your case, please contact us for further information.
Victoria Clarke – rhw Family Law
If you need more information about LASPO then contact Surrey law firm rhw Solicitors.