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DIY Family Law As A Litigant In Person: What Could Go Wrong?

01 March

DIY Family Law As A Litigant In Person: What Could Go Wrong?

Since the beginning of the Coronavirus Pandemic, our Family Department have seen an increase in the number of clients who have come to us having already started family proceedings, usually concentrated on divorce or children matters.

All it takes is a simple look online and there is a wealth of information detailing how and why an application may be made, the grounds that a person needs to prove, and what a judge will look at in making his or her decision. 

It is therefore easy to fall into the trap of believing that family law applications are straightforward and do not require a solicitor. In many respects this can sometimes be true; it has been made easier for lay people to issue proceedings so that there is no need for legal professionals, especially early on in proceedings, with application forms now being written with less legal jargon and guidance pages attached. The temptation of going down this path is strong also, with solicitor’s fees often scaring people away and leading them to believe that they will save money by starting proceedings themselves, while maintaining complete control over the issue that they face. The Family Law process is also set up to be straightforward to understand, with many aspects falling down to complying with the Order of the Court, and therefore it is easy to understand why people choose to start proceedings themselves, and see how far they can run without the need for legal professionals to become involved. 

Everything, however, comes at a cost. What the individual saves in cash is spent in hours of research and second thoughts as to whether or not the application or the statement they have drafted is good enough. At Bell & Buxton, we deal with applications on behalf of applicants and respondents on a daily basis, and are extremely familiar with the processes and substance behind the applications presented to Court. Having someone experienced behind you to guide you and provide advice takes away the emotional toll that is often placed on you when you are representing yourself in proceedings. 

Clients that have started the process themselves often have found themselves overwhelmed by the amount of work and attention that family court proceedings can require. This is an easy trap to fall into due to the apparent ease with which it takes to issue the application in the first place, however the closer the date for a final hearing comes, the more difficult and burdensome the process becomes. Often enough barristers will become involved, and clients often feel that their ability to start matters on paper were fine until the point they are asked by a judge to explain their perspective. That is not to say that judges give litigants in person a hard time; it is their duty to explain everything to litigants in person in plain English to ensure that everyone is clear of what is required of them, however this does often affect people’s confidence in going into a courtroom. 

By enquiring with us beforehand, we can advise you on the process of resolving the issue you face, how the Court will approach your issue, and the likely arguments that will be put forward by the other side. We will work with you from the start, developing a relationship in which your matter will be handled with the care and attention it deserves, and keep you updated along the way. By instructing Bell & Buxton, we take your best interests to heart and ensure that we give you a comprehensive and thorough service at every stage of your matter. 

We will always advise you on likely costs both prior to instruction as well as throughout the proceedings so you know where you stand financially in relation to whatever it is we may assist you with. We are aware that one of the main reasons people start court proceedings without a solicitor is because they are worried about money and legal fees. We have a comprehensive set of packages available at Bell & Buxton which we can discuss with you so that the financial strain of legal fees isn’t added to the list of stresses that you face. We offer a free 30 minute initial consultation in which we will speak with you to understand your matter, advise you on the options available to you, and discuss funding at the same time. We understand that Family Law disputes are some of the most stressful, and we are here to help you as best as we can, utilising our years of experience and knowledge so that this stress is taken off your shoulders.  

If you have any queries then please contact our family department on 0114 220 2186.