How to represent yourself in divorce proceedings explained.
Since 1st April 2013, legal aid is no longer available for the majority of divorce cases and therefore people wanting to file a divorce, financial or children cases will have to represent themselves if they cannot afford to hire a solicitor or barrister.
The changes affect couples in England and Wales, and come as part of austerity measures, in an attempt to preserve legal aid for those who are seen as being in urgent need.
It effectively means costly legal bills or the daunting prospect of going it alone for separating couples.
If you plan to represent yourself in court, then the first thing to do is obtain some independent advice. This could mean paying for a small amount of a solicitor’s time for consultation purposes or utilising free services such as Advice UK or the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
These people should be able to help assess your case and the likelihood of achieving your goals, or suggest other ways to resolve the situation.
Don’t get too personal
The mistake many people make in the court room is that they end up ranting and raving about the actions of their ex and the reasons for the breakup, rather than picking apart their arguments and staying focused on resolving the issues at hand.
When assessing childcare and access, stay focused on what is best for the child rather than the actions of the other party.
Representing yourself doesn’t mean you have to go alone
Representing yourself does not mean that you have to complete everything in your divorce yourself. Completing the divorce paperwork can be time consuming and stressful, and that’s not to say you will do it correct as it can be tricky.
Every official court document you will need to complete your own divorce will be completed, checked and sent you via email or post within 24 hours. This means you can handle the court process and ending your marriage yourself.
Filing wrong or incorrect divorce paperwork will delay the divorce process by weeks into months, it may also incur additional costs to your divorce, so why risk it when for just £69 you can be assured everything is correct?
Treat the judge, court staff and lawyers with respect.
The court staff, the judge and of course your spouses lawyers (if they have them), are just doing their job and are not personally against you.
We would always advise that you treat everybody with the respect that you would expect to receive yourself. Act with grace and humility and be polite, even if you feel things are not going your way. Becoming aggressive or unreasonable will not help your case one bit.
It’s important that all important relevant documents relating to the divorce, the marriage, property, income assets etc must be made available to your spouse and their legal representation.
They have the right to see any documents which arguably relate to the divorce and its issues.
Don’t feel like handing over this documentation is defeat – remember that the desired outcome is to negotiate towards a reasonable conclusion as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Making sure both parties are “on the same page” in terms of information will help to ensure that these negotiations can conclude as succinctly as possible.
Divorce cases are always tinged with emotion and sadness, and many people find the court experience stressful and confusing.
Without a lawyer it’s easy to get side-tracked with blame and the anger you feel, especially when custody of children and division of assets is concerned. It’s easy to become so engrossed with “beating” your partner you forget what is best for the family.
As legal aid has now been cut, many people are predicting a sharp rise in the number of online DIY divorces in the UK.
if you cannot afford any representation, you may know someone who has been through the court process, or you may know a lawyer who would be willing to help for free.
You are allowed to take someone into the court room, to help and assist you, but they’ re not allowed to speak to the judge, only you can do that. They can quietly advise you what to say, and how to deal with witnesses, etc.
These people are known as McKenzie friends. There are professional McKenzie friend companies that will take on the role for you, but they do charge and as they are not regulated, you cannot be sure of how skillful they are, unless you have been recommended.
Bar Council guide to representing yourself in court.
The Bar Council of England and Wales have also produced a handy guide to representing yourself in court which you can access on www.barcouncil.org.uk. This guide has been written by barristers who are the best people to advise on this area of the law, as they spend most of their time appearing before the courts.
The guide itself is designed for anyone to be able to understand the court process, from filing applications to how to address the judge.