Parents penalised by legal aid cuts

Family magistrates are warning that almost half of all parents fighting to get access to their children through the courts are being forced to do so without legal advice. The warnings come after a recent survey of nearly 500 justices revealed that 46 per cent of the people seen by magistrates in private family courts were representing themselves.

Nearly all of the magistrates surveyed (97 per cent) expressed concern that self-representation was having a negative impact on the court’s work by leading to delays and potential unfairness if one parent is legally represented but the other is not. ‘We and our legal adviser do our best, but time is not on our side. An impossible two-tier system has been created, between those that have legal advice and those that don’t’, according to one magistrate.

Between December 2012 and December 2013, the number of self-represented parties in child-related cases rose by 40 per cent. The rise is thought to be a direct result of the government’s changes to legal aid provision, which means that many more people are no longer eligible for financial support in family court proceedings…

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