Family court without a lawyer

I just stumbled upon a series of excellent videos about going to court on your own in family law matters. They are good to watch for litigants in person tackling other areas of law too.

I recommend going to the court at least once before the day of your hearing. That way, you will know where to go on the day of the hearing and you’ll know how long it takes you to get there.

Take into account that a hearing can suddenly be scheduled in a different building for logistic reasons if there are several courts on the same location. Always check with court staff in which room (and which building) your hearing will take place (and listen to any announcements on the public address system, if there is one).

Our Pay-Per-Period assistance package can include some practical training focused on several aspects of going to court on your own. As our assistance is tailored to our clients’ specific needs, this differs from client to client.

Views on litigants in person

D. Rosen at London-based Darlington Solicitors just published a post titled Perceptions and Expectations of Litigants in Person (‘LIPS’): A commercial Litigator’s perspective on the firm’s blog.

frustrated person making a phone call

Stressed litigant in person making a phone call

“During my career I have met many wonderful and varied LIPS.”, he or she writes.

“I am frustrated at seeing too many good people waste their lives pursuing their perception of truth and justice, because a Court has not agreed with them.”

I agree.

You have to know when to pursue a matter and when to let it go. A good way to decide can be to ask yourself whether other people – society – might benefit from it if you continue to pursue the matter.

Go read this post – here – because this solicitor makes very good points.

Court of Appeal: LIPs must pay attention to Civil Procedure Rules

Last month, the Court of Appeal dealt with the case between Nata Lee Ltd and Abid & Another. Nata Lee appealed against an Order made in the Central London County Court in 2013.

court houseNata Lee had appeared in the County Court without legal representation and had failed to apply for permission to include an expert witness in a timely manner (three days late). The County Court judge subsequently refused to admit this witness.

Although other factors played a greater role in this case, in its judgement ([2014] EWCA Civ 1652), the Court of Appeal made clear that, in its view, the fact that a party is acting without legal representation is no reason to allow disregard for rules, orders and directions.

Litigants in person should not be surprised by the consequences of failing to comply with the CPR or by having applications for relief from sanctions turned down when these sanctions were the result of failure to comply with the CPR on the part of the litigant in person.

Lord Justice Briggs continued:

“There may be cases in which the fact that a party is a litigant in person has some consequence in the determination of applications for relief from sanctions, but this is likely to operate at the margins.”

More support for litigants in person in the future

Last month, Minister of State for Justice Simon Hughes announced that £2 million has been set aside towards a package of support for LIPs, with the apparent primary aim of resolving disputes without the involvement of the courts, but also supporting LiPs if their disputes do make it to the courts. That’s what various legal publications published. The Guardian, however, spoke of 1.4 million per year.

case filesThe funding is intended for the following:

  • Expansion of the Personal Support Unit (currently only present at a few locations in the UK);
  • The RCJ Advice Bureau (which helps claimants and defendants at the High Court or Court of Appeal at the Royal Court of Justice & County Courts across England and Wales, the family court at the Principal Registry of the Family Division or any other family court, and
    the bankruptcy court at the Royal Court of Justice);
  • LawWorks (he country’s leading legal pro bono charity for solicitors, in-house counsel, mediators and students); and
  • Law for Life, a public legal education charity.

This initiative is the result of the November 2011 report “Access to Justice for Litigants in Person (or self-represented litigants)“.

Sources:

Good advice for litigants in person

Last week, a District Judge gave me some excellent advice for litigants in person. I am going to share it with you. ‘Appearing in court is both stressful and confusing’, he wrote.

“If asked for advice on what in particular a litigant in person needs to do, I would say that preparation is essential: get all papers and other evidence in order and easily accessible, read it all thoroughly and prepare notes on the points that will need to be made. So often parties attend court without the bare essentials and immediately they are at a disadvantage and whilst a judge will do as much as he or she can, ultimately it is the litigant who has to conduct the case.”

Note the use of the word ‘forced’. Indeed, taking someone to court should not be done lightly. It costs money, a lot of effort and a great deal of time and you can end up owing a large sum to the other party if things do not go your way.