Figures released by the Ministry of Justice have shown a marked increase in the numbers of unrepresented parties ending up in the Family Court since 2012.
Unrepresented parties brought around 25,000 cases in 2012 whereas this figure increased to nearly 35,000 in 2013. Legal Aid cuts implemented in 2013 are thought to be a significant factor in this phenomenon.
As well as the year-on-year figures for child-related cases displaying a marked increase in the numbers of unrepresented parties overall; in relative terms, they made up more than 50 per cent of the child-related cases appearing in the Family Court in the latter part of 2013.
Legal Aid Cuts and Divorce
Since 2013, cuts to legal aid have removed financial assistance for a host of civil claims including many areas of private familymeans that divorcing couples often feel that they cannot seek professional specialist legal advice due to a lack of personal financial means.
Despite this, the number of divorcing couples heading to court to resolve their differences has not fallen but has increased by around 5 per cent, resulting in significant delays. It has been suggested that the absence of solicitors in the divorce process may have made couples less likely to be informed about the alternatives, leaving them to opt for unnecessarily costly and stressful court proceedings.
Family lawyers are not just experts in family law but they usually have significant experience in alternative dispute resolution techniques such as mediation.